Manitobans face longer waits for surgeries, procedures after third COVID-19 wave

Manitoba’s backlog for surgeries and procedures has grown by nearly 20,000 since the COVID-19 pandemic’s third wave peaked earlier this summer, according to a new report from Doctors Manitoba.

In its latest update, released on Thursday, the organization estimates the total backlog now sits at almost 130,000 procedures.

That includes 52,000 surgeries, up 33 per cent from 39,000 in June, when Doctors Manitoba released its last estimate. The backlog also includes 41,000 diagnostic imaging procedures, down from 44,000, and 35,000 other procedures, up from 32,000.

The estimates combine data on scheduled procedures from provincial agencies, as well as reporting on surgical volumes changes from the Canadian Institute for Heath Information and estimates from physicians and surgeons on decreases in volumes, representing a potential “hidden” backlog not captured elsewhere, the report says.

In June, Doctors Manitoba estimated the backlog had reached more than 110,000 procedures. At that time, the organization made recommendations to the provincial government, including committing to a fixed date to bring the health system back up to speed, creating a surgery and diagnostic recovery task force and providing monthly reports on the size of the backlog.

Progress on those recommendations has been slow, Doctors Manitoba says in the report.

No date has been set for when the province intends to eliminate the backlog, and no additional reports on the backlog have been released. 

While preliminary steps have been taken to create an advisory group, they have never met and it’s unclear whether a task force will be established with authority to take steps to address the backlog, the report says.

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