The estimated surgery backlog in Manitoba has ballooned to 136,000 procedures and diagnostic tests.
Doctors Manitoba, which represents more than 4,000 physicians in the province, released its updated backlog estimate Monday, indicating an increase of 6,633 cases over the estimate the group released last month, largely owing to the inclusion of delayed sleep disorder studies.
There were 4,791 fewer sleep studies conducted since the COVID-19 pandemic began, which has effectively doubled the wait list for those types of diagnostic procedures.
Backlogged surgeries alone went up by about 1,805 since last month.
Doctors Manitoba puts together the estimates using in-house actuarial and statistics expertise to cobble together publicly available provincial wait time data, along with data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and figures gathered from physician claims and doctors' surveys, Doctors Manitoba spokesman Keir Johnson said.
"It is really a labourious process and it's something we're hoping not to do in the long term. We're hoping government will accept our recommendation and start doing their own comprehensive reporting on this on a monthly basis, but until they do, we think this is an important need so we're doing it," Johnson said.
"There's over 130,000 people waiting for surgical and diagnostic procedures and they need to know that somebody sees them and hears them — and doctors do," he added. "The first step to solving a problem is knowing how big it is."
The group has asked the Manitoba government to regularly provide official statistics detailing the extent of the backlog and set a deadline to clear it.
In addition to setting up a surgical backlog task force, the province has indicated a willingness to regularly report the backlog data, but no formal commitments have been announced.
The currently available provincial data doesn't capture the full extent of the surgery backlog, said Johnson. Less than half of the organization's estimate is based on existing provincial wait-time figures.
The updated figures come in advance of the provincial government's throne speech Tuesday, after which the government is expected to announce a task force to tackle the backlog. It is a backlog, Doctors Manitoba states, that is expected to grow by 170 to 235 cases each week because of the additional cancellations of surgery and endoscopy slates in Manitoba's fourth pandemic wave.
On Monday, Premier Heather Stefanson again told reporters dealing with the backlog is a priority.
Shared Health announced earlier this month Manitoba hospitals are cancelling surgeries (those that were scheduled after Nov. 18) to increase the number of staffed ICU beds in preparation for another spike in COVID-19 cases.
Manitoba has recorded 660 new pandemic cases and 11 additional deaths since Nov. 19.
The provincewide test positivity rate was 5.7 per cent, and 2.9 per cent in Winnipeg.
There were 136 new cases Monday, as well as 201 cases Nov. 19, 164 cases Saturday, and 159 cases Sunday. Most of the new cases — 258 — were in the Southern Health region.
Of the 136 cases reported Monday, 52 per cent are among Manitobans who are not fully vaccinated.
The rate of cases among fully vaccinated Manitobans is increasing as transmission rises. The majority of the population is double vaccinated, with about 85 per cent of Manitoba adults having received two shots.
Manitoba's COVID-19 death toll is at 1,292.
— with files from Carol Sanders
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.