An updated report released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information confirms a growing backlog of surgeries resulting from the pandemic response while also helping to understand how Manitoba’s backlog compares to other provinces.

The CIHI report looks at the impact on hospital services from March 2020 to June 2021, compared to the same months from 2019. The report finds that:

  • Manitoba experienced a decrease of 30,344 surgical procedures in the first 16 months of the pandemic — nearly 1,900 procedures per month — a 22% decrease in overall volumes.
  • Many surgical procedures were affected, including a 44% decrease in cataract and other eye surgeries, 10% decrease in cardiac surgeries and an 8% decrease in cancer surgeries.

The report also confirms that Manitoba experienced among the worst disruptions to surgical volumes in the country during the second and third waves. During the first wave in the spring of 2020, all provinces paused many surgical procedures, largely as a precautionary measure to free up hospital capacity for a potential surge in COVID-19 admissions. In subsequent waves, however, Manitoba had among the worst decreases in surgical volumes:

  • During the second wave (Oct 2020 to Feb 2021), Manitoba experienced a 26% decrease in surgical volumes, the highest by far among all provinces and well above the national average of a 5% decrease
  • During the third wave (Apr-Jun 2021), Manitoba experienced a 32% decrease in surgical volumes, the second highest among all provinces and above the national average of a 24% decrease. 

Doctors Manitoba had estimated the surgical backlog in June at 39,000 cases, slightly higher than the CIHI report released today.

The difference can partially be explained by Doctors Manitoba’s efforts to include all surgeries, while CIHI only includes procedures performed in hospital. Doctors Manitoba’s estimates also include the hidden” wait list of patients not yet referred to surgeons for assessment, based on physician estimates.

Doctors Manitoba released an updated estimate of the backlog in surgeries earlier this week, finding it has increased to an estimated 56,181 cases. A backlog dashboard is being maintained at Doc​tors​Man​i​to​ba​.ca/​b​a​cklog.

While the backlog is growing, physicians are encouraged by the government’s creation of a Task Force, announced yesterday, to oversee clearing the backlog. See our statement reacting to the Task Force announcement here.