Canada lags behind OECD countries for patient safety


A new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) suggests that Canada is falling behind its international counterparts in terms of patient safety

Canada’s standard of healthcare is certainly exemplary on a global level. Indeed, its standard of quality of care outshines many of the other developed countries, with survival rates for breast and colon cancer among the highest in the world. In-hospital deaths due to heart attacks and strokes across the country have declined by more than 20 per cent over the past five years and now 61 per cent of Canadian seniors receive a flu vaccine compared with an average of 45 per cent in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

However, OECD figures recently released by the CIHI (which come around every two years and include over 30 countries for comparison) have revealed that Canada performs below the international average in four out of five patient safety indicators, including foreign objects left behind in patients – which has increased by 14 per cent in the last five years – and obstetrical trauma rates, which are twice as high as the OECD average.

Then again, the CIHI did note that while Canada was able to offer statistic on the number of foreign objects left behind in patients after surgery between 2016 and 2018 (for those interested, its 553), many of the other OECD countries such as the US, the UK and Australia, could not report on this measure, and so comparison was difficult.

Reflecting on the findings, Tracy Johnson, CIHI’s Director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues, said that Canada was doing about the same as other OECD countries when it came to access to healthcare, and that though the foreign object rate had increased, the number of blood clots following surgery had decreased by 16 per cent over the same five-year period.

“While Canada’s healthcare systems are often admired, the international comparisons show that there is room for improvement,” said Johnson. “We are lagging behind OECD countries in areas of patient safety. These are serious issues that are often preventable and improving our performance in these areas will result in safer care for patients.”