Manitoba boosting efforts for more orthopedic surgeries to clear backlog

The Manitoba government providing new steps to address the surgical backlog Wednesday, but some feel the province is making the problem worse. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa and The Canadian Press

Manitoba has released its latest plan to address a growing surgery backlog due to demands on the health-care system from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group assigned to tackle the backlog says the government will support an expansion of the orthopedic surgery program at Concordia Hospital, including the addition of another operating room and orthopedic surgeon.

“We’re starting to work with Doctors Manitoba on kind of refining the methodology and being more focused on wait times rather than backlog numbers,” explained Dr. Peter MacDonald, chair of the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force steering committee.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon says she expects the new additions will be in place by the end of the year and will allow up to 1,000 more surgeries per year.

The province is also providing $400,000 to the Spine Assessment Clinic so more Manitobans can seek treatment for back pain.


However, for those that have been waiting for surgery, like Thom Gross, who is currently living with a degenerative kidney disease, the province’s announcement doesn’t solve the main issue, when he’ll be in the operating room.

“Although it’s promising, it’s looking like they are getting back to some surgeries, I don’t know how they are going address the backlog and frankly I don’t think many people can wait for it,” he explained.

Gross says when he hears press conferences like the one on Wednesday, where the province seems to prioritize non-life-threatening surgeries, it’s concerning.

“Initially I trusted that they were going to prioritize as needed in an appropriate way, but it kind of doesn’t look like it when you hear those announcements.”

And it’s an issue that’s been echoed by Manitoba NPD’s health critic and Manitoba’s Liberals.

“The government has every resource available to it, to provide a comprehensive list of all the surgeries and tests people are waiting for, and they have the ability and responsibility to provide when this is going to be cleared. They refuse to do it. They don’t want to be accountable for their own decision making and that is unacceptable,” said Uzoma Asagwara, health critic for Manitoba NDP.

The Liberal party adding, “they want to go back to 2019 waitlist levels, which were already bad and had been getting worse for three years straight due to PC cuts.”

A previously announced pilot project to send patients to Sanford Health in North Dakota is now underway, with nine Manitobans receiving spinal surgery there.

The advocacy organization Doctors Manitoba estimated last week that the diagnostic and surgical backlog had reached nearly 168,000 cases, up by 6,300 cases from the previous month.

-With files from the Canadian Press

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