Report: Died on a waiting list
- SecondStreet.org asked 50 hospitals and health regions across Canada – how many patients died while waiting for surgery in 2018-19? Their data showed 1,480 deaths
Public policy think tank SecondStreet.org released ground-breaking research today that shows there were 1,480 surgeries that were cancelled in 2018-19 as the patient had passed away. SecondStreet.org obtained the data by filed freedom of information requests with 50 large hospitals and health regions in Canada.
The health bodies that responded serve less than half of Canada’s population. If their results are extrapolated across the country, the total number of deaths would be approximately 3,841. Most health bodies indicated they don’t track data on patients who die while waiting for care.
“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.”
Highlights of the report include:
- Evidence of 1,480 patients who died while waiting for surgery in Canada during 2018-19. This figure is incomplete as it is from health facilities which cover less than half the country.
- Patient deaths occurred after waiting anywhere from less than a month to more than eight years for surgery.
- Patients passed away while waiting for procedures which could be linked with their cause of death (eg. cardiac surgery), as well as procedures which could have increased their quality of life during their remaining years (eg. cataract surgery, knee surgery, etc.).
Public opinion shows Canadians overwhelmingly believe governments should disclose more details on patients dying while waiting for care. A March, 2020 Leger poll (commissioned by SecondStreet.org) found 81% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agree with “governments publicly disclosing each year the number of patients that die while on a waiting list.”
“One thing governments could start to do is release anonymous waiting list incident reports that summarize each time a patient suffers while on a government waiting list,” added Craig. “Such reports could help Canadians learn more about patient suffering in the health care system.”
Responses by hospital / health region
Province / health body
Number of patients who died on a waiting list
BC – Fraser Health
BC – Interior Health
AB – Alberta Health
MB – Interlake-Eastern
ON – Mackenzie Health (Richmond Hill)
ON – The Queensway Carleton (Ottawa)
ON – Scarborough Health
ON – SickKids
ON – Sinai Health
ON – The Ottawa Hospital
QC – CISSS de Laval
PEI – Health PEI
To view the Died on a waiting list policy brief – click here
To view responses from individual health regions or hospitals, click on the health body’s name in the table above.
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