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Nearly 1,500 Canadians died while waiting for surgery: report

Last Updated Dec 2, 2020 at 3:08 pm MDT

A stethoscope hangs in a doctor's office. (CREDIT: Parentingupstream, Pixabay)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – A startling report from a think-tank organization shows hundreds of Canadians have died while waiting for surgeries during the pandemic.

The report from SecondStreet.org found that 1,480 people across the country died waiting for surgeries, including 39 people in Alberta.

The organization obtained data from hospitals and health authorities that serve 14.6 million Canadians.

However, Second Street said if it extrapolates those numbers to fit the entire population of Canada, the data suggest at least 3,841 patients likely died in 2018-19 while waiting for surgery.


The data also comes from freedom in information requests which didn’t include Newfoundland, New Brunswick or the territories.

According to Alberta Health, those who died waiting for surgeries were due for various procedures including cataracts, bladder, kidneys and surgeries for arteries.

Of the 39 cases of patients who died while on a waiting list, 26 had been waiting more than a year.

Second Street acknowledges that Alberta Health’s response doesn’t include data on how each patient’s waiting period compares with the recommended maximum surgical wait time.

A couple of policy recommendations were made as a result of the report, the first being that governments disclose anonymous waiting list incident reports, similar to minor workplace accidents and regulation infractions.

“Governments require businesses to report even minor workplace accidents, such as cases where an employee is bruised at work,” said SecondStreet.org President Colin Craig. “Yet, we found nearly 1,500 cases of patients dying while waiting for care and governments don’t even report the more egregious cases publicly.”

Other policies include increasing the choices available to patients for certain procedures, which could result in more privately-funded surgeries.

The report notes this could take the pressure off health care systems and prevent Canadians from waiting for long periods of time or flying out of the country.

Statistics Canada showed people made over 217,500 trips outside the country in 2017, specifically for health or medical reasons.

Public opinion shows many Canadians believe governments should disclose more details on patients dying while waiting for care.

In March, a poll from Leger and Associated found that 81 of those who responded strongly or somewhat agree with governments publicly disclosing each year the number of patients that die while on a waiting list.

“Such reports could help Canadians learn more about patient suffering in the health care system,” added Craig.