Plans to tackle Manitoba’s massive surgical and diagnostic backlog will be revealed this week, and will come with a dose of "hope" for the thousands waiting for necessary procedures, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said Tuesday.
Gordon said she has already met several times with the newly appointed surgical and diagnostic task force.
However, before members of the task force are made public, Gordon said she wants to put the final touches on a "very robust" announcement that will outline how the more than 100,000 delayed procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be addressed.
"I certainly don’t want to rush something that is very important to Manitobans in terms of giving them a very fulsome view of what we plan to do to achieve the goals of this task force," Gordon told reporters following question period Tuesday.
Gordon wouldn’t comment on whether the task force will reorganize current available staffing resources to carry out the backlogged surgeries or if it intends to bring in external support to assist an already overburdened health-care system.
"But I will say it’s going to be very innovative, it’s going to be very results oriented, and it’s going to be directed at meeting the needs of Manitobans," Gordon said.
Currently, Doctors Manitoba estimates the backlog to be at 136,102 surgeries, procedures and diagnostic tests. The physicians association has called on the provincial government to set a date to clear the backlog.
When asked what she considered to be an acceptable time frame to bring that number down to zero, Gordon sighed and said most people know of family or friends who have been affected by COVID-19 and delays for surgeries and procedures.
"I want action very quickly and that is why, as I mentioned before, we are ensuring that the announcement that I will be making this week gives Manitobans hope… they are going to get their surgery, they will not be having to suffer for long periods of time," she said.
Gordon hinted firm timelines could form part of the upcoming announcement, but wouldn’t say whether her task force will set a date to clear the backlog. She added the results of the latest round of public tenders for surgical services would be shared.
"We feel that the proposals that have come forward will give us an opportunity to be able to meet the needs that Manitobans have very, very quickly," Gordon said.
"A lot more is in play in terms of agreements and discussions that I can’t share today, but we will be moving very, very quickly to ensure Manitobans get those surgeries and diagnostic tests that they so desperately need."
Gordon said the task force was assembled after hearing from front-line health-care workers, as well as organizations representing patients, physicians, surgeons, nurses and allied health professionals.
"It was a very rigorous process and (I) want individuals that are innovative, are creative in their thinking and know how to produce results," she said.
Opposition NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara criticized the minister for not providing clear information to Manitobans sooner.
Asagwara said the delays in surgical and diagnostic procedures mean patients will receive more serious diagnoses as their conditions are left unattended.
"(Manitobans) needed to know months ago how the surgical and diagnostic backlog is going to be addressed immediately," Asagwara said. "So while the minister plays these games and tells people that the news is on its way, people are dying while waiting for surgeries, while waiting for diagnostic tests."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.