Every year, said Colin Craig, SecondStreet.org President, his organization looks into patients that died while waiting for surgery, waiting for appointments with specialists, and while waiting for diagnostic scans.

According to its website, SecondStreet.org is a public policy think tank that explores how "government policies impact everyday Canadians." 

SecondStreet.org recently received an access to information request from the Saskatchewan government regarding "data on the number of patients that died while on a waiting list for surgery or a procedure in the fiscal year April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022." 

Craig stated that, "Last year, there were 343 Saskatchewan patients that died while waiting for various surgeries. It's everything from cataract surgery, and hip operations, to in some cases, some cancer procedures. The data shows that patients were waiting anywhere from less than a week to more than four years."

He added that it's safe to say that some patients were suffering when they passed away, and this is not a unique problem to Saskatchewan; the data has been gathered right across the country. 

"Canada needs to be looking seriously at healthcare reform right now, so that patients can ultimately see better outcomes from the healthcare system," Craig said. 

"There's actually a policy from Europe," Craig elaborated. "That could help patients across the province, across the country for that matter, when it comes to having a way to avoid long waiting lists. So, what they do in Europe is, patients can go to another European Union country, pay for surgery, and then get reimbursed by their home governments up to what their home government would have spent to provide that surgery locally."

This would mean that for someone in the Weyburn area, Craig suggested, instead of waiting for a knee or hip replacement, they could go to another province or country and pay for the surgery and get reimbursed by the Saskatchewan government up to what the Saskatchewan government would have paid for it locally.

He reiterated that it's not a perfect solution, but it would provide a remedy for patients waiting for surgery, and they could get it next week instead of next year.

Craig added that we have an aging Canadian population, and we're going to be facing a lot of pressure in the healthcare system over the next couple of decades.

He explained that the Saskatchewan surgical initiative has been held up as a successful model in Canada of how to reduce wait times, as well.

"You put the patient first, you put aside what special interest groups may want, and put the patient front and center."