Is wait time a significant challenge within the Canadian healthcare system?

We all are aware that wait time has always been a continuous struggle and is one of the greatest challenges in the Canadian Healthcare system.

The total wait time for patients to receive their medical care has significantly increased in the past few years. The median wait time in 2021 to receive treatment after seeing a family physician and consulting with a specialist is reportedly 175% longer than in 1993.(Moir & Barua, 2021).


Having worked as a physical therapist in the USA, I came across many patients having their family members in Canada facing a long wait time to schedule elective surgeries of hip and knee replacements. I always wondered what could be the driving factors contributing to such a challenge within the healthcare system.

Taking a continuing education course "Understanding Canadian Healthcare System" from McMaster University Continuing Education provided me with an opportunity to learn in-depth about the structure and functionality of Canadian healthcare. I researched further on the factors contributing to the wait time and wrote an academic essay on it as a part of the assignment in November 2022.

Wait Time For Healthcare

Some of the key findings

Factors contributing to the crisis

  • Healthcare Funding Constraints

    Federal healthcare funding constraints cause provincial governments to reduce healthcare resources to operate efficiently and cost-effectively. (Lampkin, 2022).Covid-19 has been one of the factors affecting federal healthcare budgets with provinces having to delay elective surgeries to care for the Covid-19 patients which resulted in further backlogs.

  • Healthcare Worker Crisis

    The national healthcare worker crisis has resulted in understaffing situations in healthcare facilities resulting in people having to wait in line at hospitals, emergency departments and long-term care centres to receive the care they need. (Wright, 2022).

  • Inappropriate Hospital Bed Assignments

    Chronic national hospital bed shortages and inappropriate bed assignments to the patients due to inadequate funding, lack of system coordination and technical framework in those sectors result in alternative levels of care at the hospital. (Sutherland & Crump, 2013). This further increases wait time as beds are unavailable to care for acute patients.

Potential solutions

  • Retain Healthcare Workforce.

    There is an urgent requirement to retain the healthcare workforce in urban and rural communities with incentives of better salaries and working conditions, routine health and mental wellness benefits and increasing child support at work to provide job security for healthcare workers.

  • Increase Technological Framework.

    There can be an integrated technological framework with interoperable EHR systems between all healthcare sectors across urban and rural communities and provinces. This integrated system can help in efficient monitoring and coordinating care with a focus on virtual care and e-referrals to timely link patients to the appropriate health providers to reduce wait time.

  • Distribute Home-care and Long-term resources adequately.

    There can be increased federal funding to improve home care and long-term care resources with a focus on the proper distribution of those resources between both rural and urban communities. Constructing more publicly funded long-term beds and increasing partnerships with private sectors can help meet the growing elderly population's needs to further reduce wait times.


I enjoyed researching and writing an essay about the wait time and learnt a lot.

I believe that there are many interconnected challenges in addressing this issue despite both the federal and provincial governments taking several funding initiatives and adopting strategies.

There should be major systemic reforms and sustainable long-term change initiatives to be implemented in both the public and private sectors to help Canadians get their timely care.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions for improvement.


Moir, M., & Barua, B. (2021, December 15). Waiting your turn: Wait times for health care in Canada, 2021 report. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from

Lampkin, C. (2022, April 08). Federal Budget 2022: Federal Funding for health care fails to meet Canadians' expectations. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from

Wright, T. (2022, October 31). Canada's ER crisis: Doctors urge governments to stop finger-pointing and find solutions - national. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from

Sutherland, J., & Crump, R. (2013, August). Alternative level of care: Canada's Hospital Beds, the evidence and options. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from