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Pandemic Surgical, Diagnostic Backlog Slowing: Doctors Manitoba

May 31, 2022 11:39 AM | News

Doctor - Surgeon

A doctor prepares for a surgical procedure at a hospital in Washington on June 28, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Molly Riley)

WINNIPEG — New estimates released by Doctors Manitoba suggest the province’s pandemic healthcare backlog for diagnostic tests and surgeries may have peaked.

The total estimated pandemic backlog is now 166,903 cases — a decrease of 2,295 from April’s estimate — making it the first time in over a year that the backlog has decreased.

“As a family physician, I care for patients each and every day who are stuck in the backlog and waiting for a diagnostic test or surgery,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, Doctors Manitoba’s new president for 2022–23.

“These patients are waiting in pain and at this point there’s not a lot I can tell them to address the uncertainty they face about their wait time.”

The decrease in the backlog for diagnostic tests and surgeries reflects a return in many areas to pre-pandemic volumes which stops the backlog from growing, while in some areas additional capacity above pre-pandemic levels is now starting to clear the backlog.

The updated backlog estimate includes:

  • 55,728 surgeries (as of March 2022), a very modest increase of 158 cases over last month’s estimate.
  • 44,094 diagnostic imaging procedures (as of March 2022), down 2,095 cases over last month’s estimate.
  • 67,081 other diagnostic testing procedures (as of April 2022), including allergy tests, endoscopies, mammograms, sleep disorder studies, and lung function tests, an improvement of 358 cases over last month’s estimate.

Doctors Manitoba is recommending five short-term actions to help speed up the clearing of the backlog, based on feedback from physicians.

They suggest lifting the annual cap on the number of cataract surgeries that can be performed each year at Misericordia Health Centre, as well as removing the limit on in-person appointments and returning nurses to outpatient clinics so specialists can catch up and keep up on the backlog.

They also want mammogram procedures increased to catch up on the backlog of breast cancer screening, and restrictions removed on complex lung function and respiratory tests so they can be offered at more clinics.

Lastly, Doctors Manitoba says a targeted human resource strategy is needed to recruit and retain more nurses and technologists.