Growing Surgery and Diagnostic Backlog Nears 130,000
Progress has been slow, immediate action needed.
Today, Doctors Manitoba released a progress report on addressing the backlog of surgeries and diagnostic tests created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The growing backlog of procedures is nearing 130,000, and progress has been slow.
“Four months after our initial report on the staggering backlog of medical tests and surgeries, and unfortunately the backlog is larger and the wait lists are longer,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba. “This means tens of thousands of Manitobans are left waiting in pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. This is a dangerous side-effect of the ongoing pandemic that is leading to delayed diagnoses, more complications, increased morbidity, and even some deaths that might have been preventable with more timely care.”
Doctors Manitoba released a report in June that estimated a backlog of over 110,000 surgeries, diagnostic tests and other procedures. This estimate has grown and is now nearing 130,000 procedures, including:
- Over 52,000 surgeries, up from 39,000 in June, accounting for most of the increase.
- Over 41,000 diagnostic imaging procedures, such as MRI, CT and ultrasound scans, down from over 44,000 in June.
- Over 35,000 other procedures, including endoscopies, mammograms and allergy tests, nearly the same as in June.
The reduction in the diagnostic imaging backlog was driven by the elimination of the backlog for CT scans, though the wait time for this medical test is now 18 weeks, three times higher than it was before the pandemic. The backlog for other diagnostic imaging procedures has increased.
“We had hoped to see the backlog start to shrink after the third wave as COVID case numbers decreased,” added Dr. Thompson. “Instead, that opportunity was missed, and the backlog has actually gotten worse. We’re now anticipating further delays and disruptions as Manitoba enters the fourth wave.”
The new report also measures progress on the three recommendations Doctors Manitoba made in June. Overall progress has been slow, with no government commitment to fully address the backlog by a set date and no additional public reporting on the backlog. There were preliminary steps taken to form an advisory group, but the group has not yet met and it is not clear whether a task force will be established with the authority to oversee the immediate and sustained action needed to fully address the backlog.
“We believe the provincial government shares physicians’ very serious concerns about the massive surgical and diagnostic backlog, and we appreciate the time they have taken to meet with us and listen to our advice,” explained Dr. Thompson. “For the tens of thousands of patients waiting, however, there hasn’t been any visible progress on addressing the problem. That’s why we are renewing our call for immediate and sustained action on all three of our recommendations. Physicians are still ready and willing to help.”
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