Manitoba’s pandemic surgical backlog, wait times among worst in Canada

Doctors Manitoba estimates the province’s surgical backlog now exceeds 170,000 procedures. A new national report shows that some surgeries in Manitoba have among the longest wait times in the country.

By Mike Albanese

A new report from the Canadian Institute for Health and Information (CIHI) puts Manitoba’s surgical backlog into perspective.

It reveals that through the first 18 months of the pandemic, some wait times have been among the worst in the country.

“It’s going to be a very uphill battle to get to a decent spot on the national scale,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Jennifer Rahman.

READ: Manitoba boosting efforts for more orthopedic surgeries to clear backlog

Rahman says cataract surgery came with a waitlist even before the pandemic. In 2014, she says the benchmark of getting a surgery within 16 weeks was met 63 per cent of the time. Now it’s under 40 per cent.

“Patients are experiencing wait times well above the national benchmark, and we need to report how long they’re waiting to get their first eye done because that’s what’s driving the backlog,” said Rahman.

The provincial government’s median wait time for cataract surgery at Misericordia is 16 weeks. But Rahman says that’s misleading, as the number is lowered when the much shorter wait times between first and second eye surgeries is added.

The doctor says there is capacity to do around 9,300 surgeries a year, and right now that’s equal to the current backlog. She’s calling for the government to lift that cap to get back on track.

“The ideal situation is to let us do as many cases as possible and leave us uncapped at our public centre to get the job done,” she said.


Manitoba was also second lowest nationwide in knee replacement surgeries over the first 18 months of the pandemic. Only 38 per cent of Manitobans received knee replacement surgery within the 26-week medically recommended benchmark.

The CIHI report did show some positives in Manitoba’s handling of backlog during the pandemic.

Manitoba was the only province to be able to maintain 100 per cent of patients starting radiation therapy treatment within the medically recommended four-week benchmark.

CityNews reached out to Health Minister Audrey Gordon for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

Doctors Manitoba currently estimates the total surgery backlog in Manitoba is approximately 170,000 procedures.

“As physicians, we know patients need certainty and hope about their wait times,” said Doctors Manitoba president Kristjan Thompson. “We look forward to the government publishing more data about on a regular basis, and setting a date to clear the massive and growing backlog of surgeries and tests.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today