A new report from a policy-advocacy group has found thousands of Canadians have died while waiting for surgery.
The data obtained by Second Street discovered 242 people in Saskatchewan died while on a surgery waitlist between April 2018 and April 2019.
The data, which was obtained by a Freedom of Information request, ends in the opening weeks of Canada’s fight against COVID-19.
There were a significant number of surgeries and tests delayed this year because of the pandemic.
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health said urgent and emergent patients are prioritized and the system is attempting to catch up.
“Between July and November, the number of surgeries performed on a weekly basis ranged from 85 per cent to 116 per cent compared to the same weeks the previous year. Most weeks in September and November fell in the 90 to 100 per cent range,” read a statement from the ministry.
More than half of the patients who died were waiting for non-emergent surgeries, which included 127 people waiting for a cataract procedure.
Even though these numbers are from before the pandemic, they have raised concerns with one health policy consultant over what could happen this year.
“If you have a hospital filled with COVID-19 patients, you just simply can’t provide the full range of care that is needed for all other conditions,” Dr. Dennis Kendel said.
Kendel added there isn’t a quick fix to bring down wait lists because the province is limited to the number of health-care workers employed, and that number is being affected by COVID-19.
“Every time you take more of the people out of the workforce, you reduce your capacity to care for the people who have more elective conditions,” he said.
The report looked at health regions across the country and found 1,480 people had died waiting for surgery during the 12-month time span.
Second Street said those figures account for less than half of the population based on the information it received from health regions and provincial governments.
It estimates the total number of deaths would be 3,841.
The province added it’s investing $20 million in 2020-21 to help reach a goal of a three-month wait list by 2030 as laid out in the government’s growth plan.