Prior to the pandemic, the government had invested and made some progress on addressing wait times in a number of areas. The pandemic response has erased this progress. In June, Doctors Manitoba estimated the pandemic disruptions had created a backlog of over 100,000 surgeries and diagnostic procedures. This number continues to grow, and Manitoba appears to have had more disruptions than other provinces.
Doctors Manitoba made three recommendations to the province to address this massive issue:
- A clear provincial commitment to fully address the pandemic backlog by a fixed date.
- The creation of a surgery and diagnostic recovery task force, including both health system leaders and front-line physicians and health care workers, to lead the immediate and sustained task of addressing the backlog.
- Monthly public reporting on the size of the backlog and on actions to improve the situation.
Will you adopt these recommendations and provide the support, leadership and resources needed to fully address the pandemic backlog?
Addressing the damage the pandemic has done to our health care system will be a priority. We will collaborate with all health care stakeholders in this task and we discuss all ideas and required solutions in an open and honest manner. We will place strong emphasis on action in ensuring our health care system remains sustainable.
We will take immediate action to begin to address the surgical backlog caused by the pandemic. Measures such as removing the cap on knee and hip surgeries as well as allowing surgeries on weekends are potential solutions that should be given priority consideration.We are committed to better public communication across government. Communication regarding the pandemic and concerning the surgery backlogs is very important to effective health care.
I have been clear on my position since receiving the Doctors Manitoba report. After preparing and getting through the fourth Covid wave, there is no higher priority than addressing the surgical and diagnostic backlog in healthcare.
In my last meeting with your President (Dr. Thompson), I committed to adopting and following through on all three recommendations made. I stand by that commitment and hope to provide a more fulsome update on all three in the immediate future.
Throughout Canada, we know that Covid has affected provincial health systems in many different ways, and equally as important, at different times. Your update earlier this month shows the scope of just how many of those surgeries, diagnostics, and procedures were either halted or postponed.
This project is an enormous undertaking in both time and resources, and I am fully committed to providing both. For some perspective: London is looking at a ten-year plan for their backlog. In jurisdictions with similar circumstances to Manitoba, estimates say that raising and maintaining the surgical capacity to 125 – 130% would mean four years to eliminate their backlogs. Four years is too long for people who have been waiting in pain and for those whose conditions have worsened.
There is a real opportunity for partnership and creating a made-in Manitoba-based solution that will provide the needed capacity and volume in the shortest timeframe possible. This is a time for innovative solutions and outside-the-box ideas, which will only be found through collaboration with physicians, healthcare professionals, and leadership.
We need to work together to make sure we get this right.