Doctors Manitoba has updated its estimate of the diagnostic and surgical backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic to over 161,000 cases. This is a significant increase of over 7,700 from last month’s estimate, reflecting the disruptive impact of the Omicron wave on hospitals in Manitoba. 

The Omicron wave has led to a surge in hospital admissions, resulting in widespread disruptions to surgeries and diagnostic testing,” explained Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba. Last month, we estimate the pandemic backlog grew by over 7,700 cases, or 250 cases per day. This is the largest increase in a year. The massive growing backlog remains a top concern for physicians, and it’s another reason why Manitobans should be cautious as restrictions are eased.

The total estimated pandemic backlog is now 161,585 cases, an increase of 7,748 from last month. This includes:

  • 52,327 surgeries, up 2,168 over the last month.
  • 42,524 diagnostic imaging procedures, a decrease of 35 cases over the last month.
  • 66,786 other diagnostic procedures, including allergy tests, endoscopies, mammograms, sleep disorder studies, and lung function tests, an increase of 5,615 cases over the last month. 

New Procedure Added to the Backlog Estimate

Based on feedback from physicians and their patients, Doctors Manitoba has added lung function tests to the pandemic backlog estimate. This estimate includes a variety of specialized lung function tests used to diagnose, treat, and monitor acute and chronic lung conditions, such as COPD, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as shortness of breath after COVID. These tests are also used to assess fitness for surgery, including for lung cancer. 

Based on Doctors Manitoba’s analysis, there is an estimated backlog of 8,848 lung function tests as of January 2022, including both adult and pediatric patients. The volume of these tests completed during the pandemic appears to have decreased by about 40%. Lung function tests are primarily performed in hospital, though there is potential for more to be done in non-hospital settings such as clinics. 

The backlog estimates for lung function tests have been added retrospectively, so previous month’s pandemic estimates will now include this diagnostic test in current and future reporting.

The Surgical and Diagnostic Backlog Dashboard can be accessed at Doc​tors​Man​i​to​ba​.ca/​b​a​cklog.

Note about Data Correction: Doctors Manitoba’s estimate for hip and knee surgery has been revised to reflect a correction in the data. The baseline data from 2019/20 used in our analysis was obtained from public wait time reporting from Manitoba Health. It was brought to our attention that Manitoba Health corrected this public report. Using the corrected data, our updated estimate suggests the pandemic backlog for hip and knee surgery is 2,021, not the 9,616 reported last month. This also adjusts the estimate for the overall surgery backlog to 52,327 this month, from 57,827 reported last month. 

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