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Surgery backlog grows as Doctors Manitoba seeks info

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Manitoba’s surgery and diagnostic test backlog has increased to 169,198 procedures, according to new estimates released Friday by Doctors Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/04/2022 (221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s surgery and diagnostic test backlog has increased to 169,198 procedures, according to new estimates released Friday by Doctors Manitoba.

The physicians advocate organization said it is seeking updated data from the provincial government and has filed a freedom of information request.

The estimated backlog rises 1,311 cases since last month. The total figure includes 55,571 surgeries (an increase of 751 since last month’s estimate), 46,189 diagnostic imaging procedures (up 938) and 67,438 diagnostic tests (such as endoscopies, mammograms and allergy screens).

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Kristjan Thompson, an ER physician at St. Boniface Hospital, stated the rate of backlogged procedures is starting to slow.

Theresa Hlady is among the thousands who are still waiting.

She was informed a year ago she needed cataract surgery but hasn’t been able to book in with a surgeon, and expects a much longer wait. Earlier this week, an ophthalmologist told Hlady she now needs cataract removal surgery on both eyes.

“Things are multiplying, and there’s going to be a whole generation of us that are going to have to be in a nursing home because we’re blind,” she said Friday, worried she’ll lose her vision

“Because I’m on my own and independent, I’m concerned about what’s going to happen if I don’t get this done before I can’t see at all out of this eye.”

There has been some progress in clearing the backlog of diagnostic tests, Doctors Manitoba’s estimate suggests; there are 378 fewer compared to last month.

However, some patients may no longer need a test they were waiting for, the physician advocacy organization said, explaining some patients might have relocated, their conditions improved or deteriorated, they received a different test or they died while waiting.

Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Kristjan Thompson, an ER physician at St. Boniface Hospital, stated the rate of backlogged procedures is starting to slow.

“This reflects what we are seeing on the front line, with more and more staff returning to operating rooms and other areas, helping the system get closer to its pre-pandemic baseline volumes. That said, physicians are looking for a concrete plan from the province on addressing the shortage of nurses, technologists and other professionals needed to catch up and keep up with testing and surgeries. This is the biggest barrier to clearing the backlog,” he stated in a news release.

The organization, which represents more than 4,000 physicians, has been estimating the surgical backlog by comparing the number of procedures completed with pre-COVID-19 pandemic baseline levels, but that comparison is not as reliable two years later.

Provincial officials previously requested a more comprehensive analysis from Doctors Manitoba, but the organization hasn’t received current provincial data.

“While there have been several positive and constructive meetings with the task force itself, provincial health officials have not yet shared any additional data to help with refining the backlog estimates. To help advance work in this area, and get clearer information for the thousands of Manitobans waiting for tests and surgeries, Doctors Manitoba has now filed a freedom of information request to formally seek this necessary data,” the organization stated in the news release.

A spokesperson for the health department did not answer questions about whether it has the data and why it hasn’t been publicly released. In an emailed statement, they said the health-care system is “back to fully operational levels” and is in the “recovery phase.”

The province’s surgical backlog task force hasn’t yet been able to determine the full extent of the backlog.

“Addressing the pandemic backlog is an immensely complex task as is quantifying the backlog. The (diagnostic and surgical recovery task force) continues to work with the health system, applicable stakeholders, such as Doctors Manitoba, to do so and is working to bring in the technology to track the reduction of the backlog in the form of a central intake system,” the department spokesperson stated.

The backlog of diagnostic tests is still “staggeringly high and heading in the wrong direction,” said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

“Doctors Manitoba rightly points to the lack of technologists as the primary barrier to solving this crisis. The province needs to do everything possible, as soon as possible, to retain the qualified diagnostic staff we have and to train and hire more. The alternative is grim.”

While she waits, Hlady has been looking into going out of province for eye surgery, but she said Manitoba needs to “pick up the slack” to provide proper care for everyone waiting.

“What does the government want? Do they want to put out some bucks now and get this rectified or do they want us all to depend on them in the future at nursing homes?”

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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Updated on Friday, April 29, 2022 6:04 PM CDT: Updates with extra info, quotes

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