Surgical, testing estimates highlight declining backlog
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Manitoba’s pandemic backlog of surgeries and diagnostic tests is decreasing, according to a final monthly estimate from Doctors Manitoba, but more work is needed to keep up with growing demands for everything from hip and knee surgeries to chronic pain assessments.
The overall backlog is now estimated to be between 102,000 and 128,000 procedures — a decline of at least 38,000 procedures compared to estimates released last month.
Doctors Manitoba changed the way it compiles estimates to account for wait times and tests that are now no longer needed (either because patients’ conditions improved or worsened, because they moved out of province, or died while waiting).
The new estimates released Tuesday will be the final monthly backlog estimates released by Doctors Manitoba; the organization stated it anticipates the province will soon publicize monthly data.
Last year, Doctors Manitoba issued recommendations for the provincial government on tackling the backlog, including establishing a task force on the issue and committing to monthly reporting. No target date has been set by which Manitoba aims to end the backlog.
On Tuesday, the organization issued another recommendation, saying it’s not enough just to catch up on surgeries and testing; Manitoba needs to keep up with the medical needs of its growing population.
“In addition to the focus on catching up to clear the backlog, there also needs to be a focus on keeping up with a growing population and advances in medical practice. There should be an ongoing assessment of increasing demand for surgery and diagnostic volumes with annual increases when needed,” Doctors Manitoba recommended in Tuesday’s report on the backlog.
The most recent backlog estimates include between 31,664 and 39,674 surgeries; between 17,228 and 18,951 diagnostic imaging tests; and between 58,219 and 71,824 other procedures, such as endoscopies, allergy testing and mammograms.
Wait times for hip, knee, and cataract surgeries have all gone up during the pandemic. The same is true for most other tests, such as MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans, as well as sleep disorder studies. Detailed wait time estimates are included in the report Doctors Manitoba released Tuesday.
Mammogram wait times have decreased according to the report, but queues for other procedures have increased significantly — some growing by months or years.
Pre-pandemic, the wait for an endoscopy was 73 days. Now a 290-day wait is reported. Chronic-pain assessment wait lists are now 30 to 40 months long, compared with 20 months pre-pandemic.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 1:58 PM CDT: Revises overall backlog figures.