Where Does Canadian Health Care Fall With Health Care and Other OECD Countries?

Many countries have universal health care but not all of them are run the same way.  Each year, the Fraser Institute monitors activity with the Canadian health care system tracking wait times and efficiency.  Canada, overall, spends more on health care than the majority of other high income countries with universal health care systems.  It ranks the second highest for expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP and 8th highest for health care per capita.

Seeing the numbers for what they are can be incredibly disappointing.  The most recent study calculated a ‘value for money approach’ with 28 other high income countries.

The four categories studied were:

  1. Availability of resources
  2. Use of resources
  3. Access to resources
  4. Quality and clinical performance

Availability of resources

A basic requirement for a properly functioning health-care system is having availability of medical resources. Data suggests that Canada has substantially fewer human and capital medical resources than many peer jurisdictions that spend comparable amounts of money on health care. After adjustment for age, it has significantly fewer physicians, acute-care beds, and psychiatric beds per capita compared to the average of OECD countries included in the study. It ranks close to the average for nurses and ranked eighth for the number of long-term care beds (per 1,000 over the age of 65). While Canada has the third most Gamma cameras (per million population, age-adjusted), it has fewer other medical technologies than the average high-income OECD country with universal health care for which comparable inventory data are available.

Use of resources

Canada’s performance is mixed in terms of use of resources.  We ‘perform at higher rates than the average OECD country on under half the indicators examined (for example, cataract surgery and knee replacement), and average to lower rates on the rest. Canada reports the least degree of hospital activity (as measured by rates for curative-care discharges) in the group of countries studied.’

Access to resources

Canada ranked last (or close to last) on four indicators of timeliness of care; and ranked seventh (out of ten) on the indicator measuring the percentage of patients who reported that cost was a barrier to access.’

Quality and clinical performance

‘While Canada does well on five indicators of clinical performance and quality (such as rates of survival for breast, colon, and rectal cancers), its performance on the seven others examined in this study are either no different from the average or in some cases—particularly obstetric traumas and diabetes-related amputations—worse.’

Canadians spend a great deal of money in the way of taxes for their health care.  It is also one of the most expensive health care systems in the OECD.  Unfortunately, the research found shows that the performance for availability for access to resources is below the average OECD country.  The performance for use of resources, quality and clinical performance is mixed.

You can read the full report here.


Health Vantis




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