US & Canada

Is Canada's healthcare system as bad as Donald Trump says?

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Media captionTrump: Canada healthcare 'catastrophic'

Donald Trump said Canada's health system is so slow it's a "disaster". But while Canadians do wait longer for most services, research has found that people are overall pretty satisfied with the system.

During Sunday night's presidential debate, Mr Trump criticised single-payer health systems, and claimed that in Canada the healthcare system is so slow that people were heading to the US to get better service.

"When they need a big operation, when something happens, they come into the United States, in many cases because their system is so slow, it's catastrophic in certain ways" the real estate mogul said.

But John Baird, a former foreign affairs minister in Canada and a Hillary Clinton supporter, slammed Mr Trump's assessment.

"There's always the bogeyman that is the Canadian healthcare system when it comes to politics south of the border," Mr Baird told CTV News.

"I think most Canadian families, when they see there's a real emergency - someone in critical care, whether it's needing cardiac surgery or urgent cancer treatment - they get pretty good care."


#FiveWords: How would you describe Canada's healthcare system?

We asked Canadians on Twitter what they thought of their healthcare system, in abbreviated form.

"Great but elective wait time" - David Fisher

"Yuuuuuge. The best. Number one." - Phoebe Lostroh

"Five free surgeries so far #fivewords" - Stephanie Belding

"#FiveWords Nine hours waiting in ER" - Seb

"It's pretty darn awesome, actually. #FiveWords" - Margaret J. McMaster


Mr Trump's campaign cited research by the Fraser Institute, a right-leaning Canadian think tank, that found about 1% of patients (around 45,600 people) had non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada in 2015.

This was a 13% decrease from the 52,500 Canadians who were estimated to have travelled abroad for medical treatment in 2014.

But the study did not specify which country Canadians went to for health services, or differentiate between those who sought treatment while travelling and those who specifically left the country for treatment.

A 2015 report by the Commonwealth Fund ranked Canada last of 11 countries for wait times, and found that only 41% of Canadians could get a same-day appointment; 29% waited two months or more for a specialist, and 18% waited four months or more for elective surgery.


Healthcare compared: Canada vs US

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Image caption Prince William and Kate visited a new hospital in Canada in September
  • Canada spends 10.7% of its GDP on healthcare, while the United States spends 17.1%
  • 42% of Canadians think the current system works well, compared with just 25% of Americans
  • 50% of Canadians say some fundamental changes are needed. In the US, it's 48%
  • Only 8% of Canadians say its system needs to be completely rebuilt, compared to 27% of Americans

Source: Commonwealth Fund report, 2015

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