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Grace cancels more than two dozen orthopedic surgeries

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A total of 26 elective orthopedic surgeries have been cancelled this week at Grace Hospital at the same time the province is insisting it’s working to reduce a massive backlog.

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A total of 26 elective orthopedic surgeries have been cancelled this week at Grace Hospital at the same time the province is insisting it’s working to reduce a massive backlog.

“A large volume of orthopedic trauma surgery patients and acute surgery patients over the past two weeks, coupled with a shortage of staff, is resulting in the need for patients at Grace Hospital to be prioritized by surgical teams based on medical need,” a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said late Thursday.

The hospital cancelled 12 hip and knee surgeries Thursday, 12 Friday and two that had been scheduled this weekend.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

Grace Hospital cancelled 12 hip and knee surgeries Thursday, 12 Friday and two that had been scheduled this weekend.

“All surgeries deemed emergent and urgent continue to be done,” the health authority spokeswoman said. “We continue to manage surgical resource capacity with priority given to patients with the most acute surgical-care needs.”

Health Minister Audrey Gordon did not respond to a request for comment on the cancellations.

Meanwhile, the long wait continues for the patients whose surgeries were cancelled.

“We can appreciate how upsetting surgical postponements can be for individuals, particularly those suffering pain due to injury,” the WRHA said.

Doctors are upset too, according to the organization that advocates for them.

“Across Manitoba, physicians are working hard to get patients the care they need as quickly as possible, despite the challenges in the health-care system, and they share Manitobans’ frustration with unreasonably long wait times and avoidable disruptions to your care,” Doctors Manitoba spokesman Keir Johnson said Friday.

“Physicians continue to be concerned about the capacity of our hospitals. Staffing shortages and insufficient surge capacity continues to result in avoidable disruptions to patient care in many areas. This includes surgery, which still has a massive backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic.”

Before the latest cancellations, median wait times for hip and knee surgeries at Grace were already the longest in the province at 60 weeks, according to August data from Shared Health. Waits were shortest at Concordia Hospital, at 36 weeks. The median wait time for the province was 42 weeks.

Delays and repeated cancellations are leading to increased pain and discomfort, minor health issues becoming more complicated and requiring more complex surgeries, longer hospital stays and patient harm — including “delayed diagnosis, permanent disability and death,” Doctors Manitoba reported in June.

The provincial government has blamed longer wait times for many critical services on the COVID-19 pandemic placing unprecedented stress on the health-care system.

In December, it established the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force to address lengthy and growing waitlists for various procedures.

In June, the task force promised to launch an online dashboard to publish backlog estimates by late summer. In August, it said the dashboard would provide monthly updates on median wait times, the number of people waiting and the number of completed procedures, starting in September. A spokesman for Manitoba Health said Wednesday that a team of experts was still reviewing the online dashboard and that it will launch “soon.”

Doctors Manitoba had its own online dashboard tracking the backlog, but stopped updating it when the province signalled its intention to provide the information.

When the advocacy group last updated its dashboard June 28, it included numbers from April 2022. It estimated the pandemic backlog for diagnostic procedures and surgeries ranged from more than 102,000 to 128,000. It said between 31,000 and 39,000 were delayed surgeries.

Doctors Manitoba has cited a shortage of nurses and technologists as top barriers to addressing the backlog, a problem that started long before the pandemic. Manitoba’s hospitals were left especially vulnerable because there was little capacity to absorb even a moderate increase in COVID-19 admissions without significant disruptions to other hospital services, the organization reported in the summer.

The WRHA, meanwhile, is encouraging patients — or their advocates — whose orthopedic surgery at the Grace was cancelled to contact the appropriate patient-relations office if they haven’t already to discuss their concerns directly with care teams.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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