Backlog reaches 110,000 procedures, and counting.

Physicians are calling for clear and decisive action to address the growing backlog in surgeries and diagnostic tests. In a comprehensive report released today, Doctors Manitoba estimates the pandemic backlog” has reached over 110,000 procedures, and continues to grow.

The pandemic backlog of medical tests and surgeries is staggering, and it’s getting bigger every day,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba. As we move past this third wave, patients need to see immediate and sustained action to address this critical issue.”

The growing backlog, which is leading to lengthy delays in diagnosis and treatment, is estimated to include:

  • Over 39,000 surgeries, including in serious life-saving surgeries
  • Over 44,000 diagnostic imaging procedures, such as MRI, CT and ultrasound scans
  • Over 32,000 other procedures, including endoscopies, mammograms and allergy tests. 

To address the backlog, Doctors Manitoba recommends three broad actions:

  1. A clear provincial commitment to fully address the pandemic backlog by a fixed date.
  2. 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.
  3. Monthly public reporting on the size of the backlog and on actions to improve the situation. 

We recognize the provincial government invested in reducing wait times, but unfortunately all of that progress has been erased by this pandemic,” added Dr. Thompson. We now face a backlog and wait lists that are longer than most physicians have ever seen, and this crisis requires an immediate and ongoing coordinated response from provincial leaders.”

Physicians cited a shortage of nurses and technologists as top barriers to addressing the backlog, a problem that started long before the pandemic. This left Manitoba’s hospitals especially vulnerable during the pandemic, perhaps more so than any other province, because there was little capacity to absorb even a moderate increase in COVID-19 admissions without significant disruptions to other hospital services.

The diagnostic and surgery backlog is one of the top concerns for physicians in Manitoba, who are worried about their patients. Delays and repeated cancellations are leading to:

  • Patients waiting in pain and discomfort;
  • Minor health issues becoming more complicated, requiring more complex surgeries and longer hospital stays; and
  • Patient harm, including delayed diagnosis, permanent disability and death.

The full report, Addressing the Surgery and Diagnostic Backlog: A Path to Recovery, is available here.