Canada ranks last in international study surveying doctor access
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Published Monday, January 20, 2014 12:22PM EST
Canada ranked last for doctor access among 11 countries surveyed, according to a new report.
The US ranked second last.
The 2013 health policy survey by the Commonwealth Fund studied almost a dozen countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) – an international forum promoting the market economy and coordinating its members’ international and domestic policies.
According to the study, Canada has seen no improvements in wait times for patients to see their family doctor since 2004.
The survey results were published Monday in a Health Council of Canada report, which found that depending on where you live in Canada, your experience with the health care system can be vastly different.
"(The report) raises important questions on the wide variations we see among provinces in a number of areas such as access to after-hours care, emergency department wait times, affordability of care, coordination among care providers, and the uptake of screening programs," Dr. Mark Dobrow of the Health Council of Canada said in a news release.
According to the report, between 31 and 46 per cent of Canadians, depending on the province, can get a same-day or next-day appointment with their family doctor.
The U.S. ranked second last in the same category, with 48 per cent of those polled south of the border saying they could get a same-day or next-day appointment.
Germany took the top stop on the list with 76 per cent being able to see their doctors same-day or next-day, followed by New Zealand at 72 per cent and Switzerland at 69 per cent.
Nearly half of Canadians (47 per cent) reported that they recently went to an emergency department for a health problem that their regular doctor could have treated if he or she had been available – the highest among the countries surveyed.
Up to 15 per cent of Canadians don't have a family doctor
Emergency room wait times is another area where Canada is ranked last, with 26 per cent reporting that they've waited four hours or more to be seen in the emergency department. The Netherlands ranked first on the list, with only one per cent having waited more than four hours in an ER.
The report also noted that depending on the province, between three and 15 per cent of Canadians do not have a regular doctor or clinic.
But it wasn't all bad news in the latest Health Council of Canada bulletin.
The organization found that 42 per cent of Canadians agree that on the whole, their health care system works fairly well and only minor changes are needed, while in 2004, only 22 per cent felt the same way.
More than 60 per cent of Canadians also rate their health as very good or excellent.
Other findings include:
- Accessing medical care after hours without going to an emergency room is difficult for 62 per cent of Canadians
- Between two and 20 per cent of Canadian women have never had a Pap test, and up to 34 per cent of women have never been screened for breast cancer
- Between 23 and 49 per cent of Canadians ages 50 or older have never had a test to screen for bowel or colon cancer
- 61 per cent of Canadians do not get reminders when they are due for preventive care; the rate has gone unchanged since 2004
- 20 per cent of Canadians hospitalized overnight left without written instructions about what they should do and what symptoms to watch for at home
- Six per cent of Canadians said they had received the wrong medication or wrong dose in the past two years
- The authors of the report say the "big message" to take home is the lack of progress in many areas of the health care system across Canada.
"Although Canadians have more confidence in the health care system, access to care has not substantially improved and patients are not reporting that their care is better integrated or more patient-centred," the authors conclude. "We still use hospital emergency departments for too much of our primary care. And we show largely disappointing performance compared to other high-income countries, some of which have made impressive progress."
Rob Cooper will look at how patients here at home access doctors, and challenges local doctors and patients face. Watch that story on CTV News at 6 tonight.