When it comes to receiving health care in this country, one word springs to mind for 40 per cent of Canadians: wait.

That’s the percentage of respondents to a recent Decima poll who feel they’ve been denied timely access to health care in the last three months.

And it could be a while before the situation changes for the better, as the federal Conservatives appear to be delaying their promise to introduce health care wait-time guarantees.

The pledge - one of five election issues the party campaigned on - was that the guarantee would be introduced this year. Now it’s looking like the plan won’t be in place for at least two years.

Health Minister Tony Clement said this week he expects to be “making progress” toward a better system in 2008.

“I believe that by that date, all jurisdictions should be making progress towards establishing wait-times guarantees for other essential health care services,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Decima poll of 3,000 Canadians found 81 per cent of households needed some form of medical care in the last three months - and many felt they waited too long to receive that treatment.

Thirty-seven per cent said someone in their family had waited too long for care, and 45 per cent said they had experienced challenges seeing a specialist or getting emergency treatment.

The Conservative proposal involves setting maximum wait times for medical procedures across the country, and a promise to help patients find treatment in other provinces or abroad if they can’t get it in their own province.

The percentage of households that tried obtaining a service and felt they had to wait an unreasonable amount of time was:

45 per cent for an appointment with a specialist. This was among 1,404 respondents who told the survey someone in their household needed such an appointment.

44 per cent for emergency hospital treatment, among 405 respondents.

38 per cent for non-emergency surgery, among 309 respondents.

37 per cent for an appointment at a hospital, among 289 respondents.

30 per cent to confirm a diagnosis, among 1,248 respondents.

20 per cent for an appointment with a family physician, among 2,285 respondents.