Updated Estimates Show Both Positive and Concerning Results

Doctors Manitoba has updated its estimate of the backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures that have accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new estimated backlog has increased to over 136,000 cases.

The physician organization has also launched a new dashboard on the backlog, which will see more regular updates to monitor changes over time. 

Physicians are very concerned to see the pandemic backlog increase again, now topping 136,000 surgeries and diagnostic procedures,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba. Monitoring the size of this staggering backlog is important to understanding the magnitude of the problem that needs to be solved. That’s why we’ve launched a new dashboard, to track progress until the backlog is fully cleared.” 

Dr. Thompson acknowledged the positive progress in the area of diagnostic imaging, with the backlogs for procedures like MRI and Ultrasound tests decreasing last month. 

However, the cancellation of several surgical and endoscopy slates at Winnipeg hospitals is estimated to add between 170 and 235 cases to the backlog every week. We urge all Manitobans to help slow the spread of COVID-19, because right now we are on a trajectory that is leading to more cases, more hospitalizations, and more surgery cancellations as a result.” 

The total estimated pandemic backlog is now 136,102 cases, an increase of 6,633 over last month’s estimate. This includes:

  • 53,805 surgeries, up 1,805 over the last month.
  • 39,701 diagnostic imaging procedures, an improvement of 1,883 tests over last month due to higher-than-normal volumes.
  • 42,596 other diagnostic procedures, an increase of 6,711.

The increase is largely driven by the addition of a new procedure to the estimate. Based on ongoing feedback from physicians, sleep disorder studies have been identified as a procedure significantly disrupted by the pandemic response. Based on Doctors Manitoba’s analysis, it appears there were 4,791 fewer studies conducted during the pandemic, which has likely caused the already lengthy wait list to double.

Sleep disorders can be serious, and sleep studies are a critical test needed to make a diagnosis and treatment plan,” said Dr. Thompson. Doctors Manitoba made three recommendations to tackle the backlog, including regular monthly reporting, a commitment to clear the backlog by a set date, and the formation of a task force to oversee this work. 

We are encouraged to hear the government accept our recommendation to form a task force to address the surgery and diagnostic backlog, and we are hopeful it will be announced in the next few days,” explained Dr. Thompson. Until we see comprehensive regular monthly reporting, however, Doctors Manitoba will continue to update its estimates, and renew our call for a clear commitment to set a target date to get this backlog down to zero. Patients on the wait list need certainty.”

The new backlog dashboard and estimates can be found at Doc​tors​Man​i​to​ba​.ca/​b​a​cklog. Consistent with earlier reports, these estimates do not include any wait lists or backlog that existed prior to the pandemic. 

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