British Columbia lags behind other provinces when it comes to access to a family doctor, but had far fewer cancelled surgeries, according to a new national comparison of health-care systems.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information entered a new era on Wednesday with an inaugural report analyzing and comparing four “priority topics,” including healthcare access and operational issues like staffing, in what it’s calling a “snapshot” with newly-available data that will be repeated and improved over time.

Quebec data is not included.

When it comes to access to a primary care provider, 88 per cent of Canadians have access to a family doctor, but only 83 per cent do in B.C. Alberta marked 87 per cent, and Ontario is at 90 per cent.

“Almost all Canadian seniors have a regular doctor, similar to seniors in other developed countries,” note the report’s authors.

When it comes to surgeries, the report found that in the first two-and-a-half years of the pandemic, British Columbia saw seven per cent fewer surgeries than in 2019, compared to the national average of 13 per cent. 


The data collection is part of an agreement signed between the provinces and federal government earlier this year, which agrees that modernising the health care information system is important for citizens and policymakers alike.

The report says four out of five Canadians would like to access their health information electronically, with nearly half of British Columbians doing so.

Canada lags well behind other developed countries when it comes to doctors sharing patient information electronically with other doctors, with just 38 per cent doing so in 2021 compared to 67 per cent elsewhere.

B.C. is currently in the process of modernizing health authority systems, including in hospitals, with many hiccups already evident.


When it comes to mental health services, CIHI found that “Many of the integrated youth services sites across the country are new or just getting started.”

The report also references a 2018 survey of teens and adults that found 14 per cent reported being diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder, of whom one in five had received mental health care in the past year but had only partially met their needs.

In total, eight per cent of Canadians had not had any mental health care in that year, despite needing it, the same percentage of British Columbians reporting unmet needs.

But the authors also emphasize, “While challenges are widespread across the country, information about who is affected, what services are available and who is and is not getting support is unevenly gathered.”


CIHI’s vice president of research and analysis said while there are gaps in the data, and information that’s not current, it’s a good overview and gives health officials a starting point.

“Every province has areas where they have strengths and where they are looking to improve,” said Kathleen Morris. “One of the benefits of comparable data is you can actually look across provinces and see who’s doing well and try to tap into some of the ideas.”

The BC Health Coalition, which analyzes public policy and advocates for a public health-care system, is keen to see more details as the reporting processes are improved over time.

“The data is important and it’s a good starting point and we obviously need common standards and we need to keep working on that,” said spokesperson Usman Mushtaq. “But at the end of the day there’s also the need for political will to actually put that data into action to improve our public health-care system.”


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