Doctors Manitoba says the backlog of surgeries and diagnostic procedures in Manitoba has grown to about 130,000 cases from 110,000 in June.
Broken down in a report released Thursday, those numbers include more than 52,000 surgical procedures, 41,000 diagnostic imaging tests and 35,000 other procedures including allergy tests, mammograms and endoscopies.
Diagnostic imaging tests are actually down from a high of 44,000 in June, the doctors said, and surgeries account for most of the increase.
However, the group reported that minor health issues are “becoming more complex” due to the wait times.
“This means tens of thousands of Manitobans are left waiting in pain, discomfort, and uncertainty,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, in a statement.
“This is a dangerous side-effect of the ongoing pandemic that is leading to delayed diagnoses, more complications, increased morbidity, and even some deaths that might have been preventable with more timely care.”
In June, Doctors Manitoba made three recommendations to the province to address the backlog fully, but said only one has seen partial implementation.
While creating a task force to oversee the backlog has seen some preliminary steps, Thompson said monthly public reporting and a provincial commitment to have the problem fixed by a certain date have not happened.
Thompson said the doctors have met with members of the provincial government, including acting health minister Kelvin Goertzen (who is now premier), former health minister Heather Stefanson and current health minister Audrey Gordon.
Gordon told Global News in a Thursday statement the province is reviewing the association’s report along with taking steps to address the backlog, including signing contracts with public and private facilities to do more surgeries.
“In 2020-21, we contracted with both public and private facilities to perform over 11,000 additional procedures to help address the backlog caused by COVID-19. As of Oct. 4, we opened our fifth Request For Supply Arrangement (RFSA) to address backlogs in endoscopy, cataracts, paediatric general surgery, dental and ENT, outpatient spine procedures, and adult ENT and general surgery,” she said.
Gordon said the province has spent nearly $14 million of the $50 million dollars that it committed to reducing surgical wait times as part of its 2021 budget.
“To date, $13.7 million has been spent and allocated, including $8.1 million for the first four RFSA’s, and $5.6 million in service delivery organizations on priority procedures including hips, knees, and cataracts. 8,300 procedures were contracted as a result,” she said, adding that Pan Am Clinic, Misericordia Health Centre and Victoria Hospital reached full surgical slates at the end of the third wave, with Concordia Hospital and Grace Hospital returning to a full slate at the end of September and October 13, respectively.
Meanwhile, Doctors Manitoba worries wait times will become even worse if the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic prevents surgeries in the months ahead, Thompson said.
“Doctors remain concerned, and they remain willing to increase their workload to eliminate backlog in all areas,” the report states.
— with files from Rosanna Hempel