Health Care in Canada: Problems Accessing Timely Care

According to a new report by Angus Reid, two out of five Canadians say they have not had access to essential health services in the past six months.

The study, which surveyed nearly 3,500 Canadians and Americans combined, also found that Canadians’ confidence in our healthcare system is currently lower than Americans’ confidence in theirs, with Americans less likely to report problems. access to care.

The data comes amid growing reports of emergency department closures, backlogs for surgeries, long wait times and bleeding hospital staff as Canada’s healthcare system struggles to sustain itself. Canada’s universal healthcare system has long been a source of national pride, but with the pandemic exacerbating existing staffing issues, experts say the flaws in our system have been ignored for too long.

This new study noted Canadians’ responses and sorted them into three categories that reflected their level of access to care as a whole – those who had comfortable access, those who had difficulty accessing care and those who had chronic difficulties in accessing care.

According to the researchers, only 15% of Canadians surveyed fall within the comfortable access level, while 31% reported experiencing difficulty and 29% experienced chronic difficulty.

The remaining 26% of Canadians surveyed had not needed access to health care during the six-month period covered by the survey.

Applied to the entire Canadian population, this could mean that up to 18.7 million Canadians could have difficulty accessing health care.

The damage to Canada’s healthcare system is also underscored by survey data from Americans, who are currently much less likely to report suffering issues when trying to access healthcare, the study found.

When asked about their level of confidence in their ability to get emergency care, only 37% of Canadians were confident they could access emergency care in a timely manner, compared to 70% of Americans surveyed.

It is important to note that the surveys focused on access to care, not clinical outcomes, and do not provide a measure of the quality of care received by patients.


The study is comprised of data collected through two online surveys in August 2022 – one of 2,279 Canadian Angus Reid Forum members and the other of 1,209 American Angus Reid USA Forum members. Angus Reid Forums is an online public opinion research foundation.

Appointments with a specialist or surgery were the types of health care that Canadians had the most difficulty accessing — more than half of those who needed this care had difficulty accessing it, and about 5% said it was impossible to get the appointment or surgery they needed.

Non-emergency diagnostic tests and treatment were easier to access, but a high percentage still experienced difficulty, with 41% of Canadians experiencing difficulty accessing a test.

Young people also have more barriers to accessing specialist appointments or getting a diagnostic test, the study found. About 70% of those who found it difficult or impossible to get to a specialist appointment in the past six months were in the 18-34 age group.

The study also looked at the impact on the community beyond the individual.

Most Canadians know of a friend or family member who has recently had difficulty with the health care system — according to data, nearly three in four Canadians know at least one person who received inadequate medical care in the last last six months.

About 57% of Canadians say their friends or relatives have waited a long time for an appointment, and a third of Canadians surveyed said they know someone who has waited a long time for emergency care.

Half of Canadians said that this inadequate care had serious consequences for the health of the loved one in question, according to the survey.

Amid the turmoil, Canadians’ trust in the healthcare system appears to be collapsing, researchers have found, with 61% saying they are not confident they can get quick access to help in case of emergency.

The study noted that trust is lowest in Atlantic Canada, where 27 percent said they were not at all confident that emergency care would be timely, and 38 percent said they weren’t so confident.

In contrast, the US portion of the data found that Americans surveyed were less likely to report difficulties accessing care and were more likely to be confident they could access care in a timely manner.


According to the study, Canadians were almost three times more likely than Americans to say a loved one couldn’t have a diagnostic test and four times more likely to say a loved one couldn’t have surgery. While 40% of Americans surveyed found it “very easy” to access emergency care, only 13% of Canadians said the same.

The comparison is striking because in the past, Canada has consistently outperformed the United States in rankings of health care systems around the world.

Even when Canada performed poorly compared to other high-income countries in a 2021 Commonwealth Fund report, it still performed significantly better than the United States, including the private healthcare system has long been criticized internally and abroad for the financial burden it imposes. on the sick.

In this new study, the researchers noted that while American health care is still largely a private, user-pay system that puts the wealthy first, recent efforts by the administration of US President Joe Biden have expanded health care coverage, with the uninsured rate reaching a total. a historic low of 8% in the first quarter of 2022.