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Waiting List Deaths Spike in Ontario

Died on a waiting list

Think tank SecondStreet.org released today new Ontario Health data that shows a spike in the number of patients that died while waiting for surgery, CT scans and MRI scans in 2021-22. The freedom of information response shows that waiting list deaths for the aforementioned health services are up significantly over the past five years.

“Government rationing and mismanagement in health care are costing some patients their lives and many others their quality of life in their final years,” said SecondStreet.org President Colin Craig. “Decades of throwing more and more money at the health care system hasn’t worked. The Ontario Health data shows that waiting list deaths were a growing problem before the pandemic began.”

While many other provinces, and even hospitals within Ontario, release more information around waiting list deaths (the procedure in question, how long patients waited, etc.), Ontario Health has refused to release similar information, citing patient confidentiality as rationale. SecondStreet.org has a complaint before the Information Commissioner to try to obtain additional details. Past research suggests most patients likely died while waiting for procedures which could have improved their quality of life (e.g. hip operation) rather than saving their life (e.g. heart operation). However, data from Nova Scotia shows that 51 patients died in 2020-21 while waiting for procedures which could have potentially saved their lives.

Ontario Health data shows the following:

Number of patients who died while waiting for surgery:

 2021/22: 1,417
2020/21: 1,096
2019/20:    986
2018/19: 1,039
2017/18: 1,138
2016/17: 1,045

Number of patients who died while waiting for a CT scan:

 2021/22: 5,404
2020/21: 4,624
2019/20: 3,924
2018/19: 3,991
2017/18: 3,346
2016/17: 2,838

Number of patients who died while waiting for an MRI scan:

 2021/22: 1,993
2020/21: 1,867
2019/20: 1,610
2018/19: 1,363
2017/18: 1,171
2016/17: 1,058

“One can only hope that Ontario’s Minister of Health has seen these statistics and is probing the numbers more deeply,” added Craig. “How many of these patients died for procedures which could have potentially saved their lives? How many spent their final years waiting in chronic pain while waiting for procedures like hip operations and knee operations? How many developed depression or mental health issues due to their long wait for care? These are important answers to find out.”

SecondStreet.org will be releasing its annual Died on a Waiting List policy brief later this year.

To view the 2021-22 Ontario Health data – click here

To view the 2010-11 to 2020-21 Ontario Health data – click here

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