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Manitoba unveils surgical, diagnostic wait list dashboard

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Manitobans on lengthy wait lists for surgical and diagnostic procedures can now keep tabs on a small part of the province’s efforts to eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic backlog.

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Manitobans on lengthy wait lists for surgical and diagnostic procedures can now keep tabs on a small part of the province’s efforts to eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic backlog.

An online dashboard that compares current wait lists for nine procedures against pre-pandemic levels, and tracks changes in the overall backlog, was published Thursday by the province.

“This is the first phase of the dashboard, with additions and improvements to come as more date becomes available,” diagnostic and surgical recovery task force provincial director David Matear said.

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“This is the first phase of the dashboard, with additions and improvements to come as more date becomes available,” diagnostic and surgical recovery task force provincial director David Matear said.

While the dashboard does not include real-time information — the latest numbers on backlogs and wait times are from August — it will be updated regularly, Matear said.

An estimated 11,000 cases are backlogged for seven out of the nine procedures tracked on the dashboard. Two diagnostic imaging procedures on the dashboard — MRIs and myocardial perfusion — did not have a pandemic backlog listed Thursday.

The task force is focused on eliminating a pile up of cases from the past two years in at least 30 different service areas, Matear explained. Some of those procedures will also be added to the dashboard over the coming year or two.

“What we will be doing is developing a plan for updating this dashboard and adding additional information, additional services, as we have data which is reliable,” he said in an online briefing with reporters.

Previously, advocacy association Doctors Manitoba provided a monthly estimate of the pandemic backlog for more than 14 different tests and operations.

The group had pushed the province to establish its own dashboard to measure the number of delayed cases and stopped updating its tracker when the province agreed to publish its own figures.

The province’s dashboard was initially scheduled for release this summer, but was repeatedly delayed.

In its final estimate at the end of June, Doctors Manitoba pegged the total number of delayed cases between 102,000 and 128,000 procedures, including nearly 40,000 surgeries.

“We are happy to see the backlog dashboard finally available to the public,” Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Candace Bradshaw said in a statement.

“We see existing wait time information available in a more interactive format, and new data added to help track government’s progress on addressing the massive backlog in surgical and diagnostic procedures.”

Bradshaw said the association wants to see the province add more procedures to the dashboard, including those monitored by Doctors Manitoba.

The backlog of cataract surgeries delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially, according to the dashboard, in what Matear called a “great news” story.

Numbers published by the province indicate the backlog was reduced to 116 cataract cases in August from 1,223 in February.

The pandemic backlog is the difference between current the wait list (pegged at 759 people for cataract surgery in August) and the average monthly pre-pandemic wait list (for the 12-month period ending February 2020).

“This demonstrates great progress in moving patients off the cataract wait list by connecting them to critical services that significantly improve their quality of life,” Matear said, noting surgeries performed under contract with third-party public and private centres are not currently included on the dashboard.

By contrast, the backlog for bone density tests was unchanged at just under 1,400 cases since February. Matear expects that line to move as initiatives targeting bone density tests are rolled out this month.

Data for hip and knee replacements initially published on the dashboard contained errors, a provincial spokesperson said in a statement, adding the task force expected numbers to be corrected Thursday.

Median wait times in weeks for the procedures are also included, which will be used to track the province’s progress on reducing waits to benchmark standards. The task force has not included 90th-percentile wait times, which would show the longest waits for procedures.

Matear said the task force, which was formally established in December 2021, will eliminate the backlog within its lifecycle, which could be up to three years and depends on how quickly initiatives are brought on line and their effectiveness.

Opposition health critic Uzoma Asagwara said reducing the surgical and diagnostic backlog needs to be the provincial government’s biggest priority.

“But one year into Premier (Heather) Stefanson’s time in office, things are getting worse and we’re still three years away from Manitobans getting the surgeries they need,” Asagwara said in a statement. “Respecting, retaining and hiring front-line staff is the missing piece of the government’s surgery plan.”

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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