Objectives: The Canada Health Act legislates that Canadian citizens have access to healthcare that is publicly administered, universal, comprehensive, portable, and accessible (i.e. unimpeded by financial, clinical, or social factors). We surveyed public impressions and practices regarding preferential access to healthcare and queue jumping.
Methods: Households were randomly selected from the Toronto telephone directory. English speakers aged 18 years or older were solicited for a standardized telephone survey. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS and SAS.
Results: Fifteen percent (n=101) of 668 solicited were surveyed. Ninety-five percent advocated equal access based on need. Support for queue jumping in the emergency department (ED) was strong for cases of emergency, severe pain, and pediatrics, equivocal for police, and minimal for the homeless, doctors, hospital administrators, and government officials. To improve a position on a waiting list, approximately half surveyed would call a friend who is a doctor, works for a doctor, or is a hospital administrator. Sixteen percent reported having done this. The likelihoods of offering material inducement for preferential access were 30 and 51% for low and high-impact medical scenarios, respectively. The likelihoods of offering nonmaterial inducement were 56 and 71%, respectively. Responses were not associated with sex, occupation, or education.
Conclusions: Respondents expressed support for equal access based on need. Policy and scenario-type questions elicited different responses. Expressed beliefs may vary from personal practice. Clearly defined and enforced policies at the hospital and provincial level might enhance principles of fairness in the ED queue.