Genuine solutions to health care wait-time problem lie in the public sector

December 15, 2005

OTTAWA—A study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that there are public sector solutions to Canada’s wait list problems. While often touted, private for-profit clinics actually tend to make things worse.

Author Dr. Michael Rachlis asserts that, instead of going down this road, Canadians should choose public sector solutions. The paper highlights two innovative approaches:

1. establish more specialized public short-stay surgical centres; and
2. adopt modern methods of queue management from other sectors.

Rachlis points to Toronto’s Queensway Surgicentre and Winnipeg’s Pan-Am Clinic as examples of how the public clinics achieve the benefits of specialization and innovation, normally ascribed to the private sector. And, these public clinics reduce administrative costs and provide broader societal benefits. “The public system should shift as many minor procedures and low-risk elective surgeries as possible to short-stay, public, specialized clinics,” says Rachlis.

Rachlis also demonstrates how queue management techniques applications can be used to redesign services, smooth patient flow, and reduce delays. “Canadians tend to assume that if there is a wait for health care, there isn’t enough of it,” Rachlis says. “However, most delays are due to poorly designed services. “We need to look at delays through the ‘lens of flow’.”

The Saskatoon Community Clinic has virtually eliminated their previous 4 week delays to see family doctors. Saskatchewan plans same day service for the entire province within five years.

Finally, despite claims that private clinics will deliver faster care at a better price, peer-reviewed literature demonstrates that for-profit care tends to cost more while, if anything, providing inferior quality services.

“There is no shortage of public sector solutions if the political will is present,” says Rachlis. “But the pursuit of many of these public sector solutions is incompatible with the further proliferation of private, for-profit clinics. Increased reliance on these clinics merely diverts public dollars to shareholders and insurance companies. And, for-profit clinics aggravate personnel shortages.”

“Let’s not add private problems to our health care system,” Rachlis concludes. “We already have the public solutions at hand. Let’s put them into practice.”


Public Solutions to Health Care Waitlists is available on the CCPA web site at

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer at 613-563-1341 x306.

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