Manitoba adds staff and equipment to address surgical and diagnostic backlogs

Orthopedic surgeries at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg are boosted by the addition of another operating room, as the Manitoba government says it is working to reduce the backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures in the province.

As part of the expansion, another orthopedic surgeon will be recruited by the province, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said at a news conference Wednesday morning, where the task force tasked with tackling the Manitoba backlog of deferred proceedings provided an update on its progress.

Additionally, four inpatient beds will be added and anesthesia staff will be increased at Concordia, Gordon said during the announcement at the Concordia Hip and Knee Institute.

The Winnipeg Northeast Hospital is the province’s primary site for joint replacement surgeries. But a significant number of patients have been forced to wait for their procedures as staff, beds and other resources have been reallocated for the pandemic response.

The upgrades are expected to increase capacity to up to 1,000 surgeries per year, but are not expected to be in place until the end of the year.

“The number of surgeries is way behind here for this year, but what we’re talking about with the extra 1,000 [is] after we are back to baseline [levels]”said Dr. Peter MacDonald, chair of the task force’s steering committee.

That means “not just going back to baseline,” but adding surgeries, he said.

“As an orthopedic surgeon, I know the profound benefits that hip and knee surgeries can have on a person’s quality of life and overall health, so this is a particularly meaningful initiative to see go from there. ‘before.”

The province is also purchasing a new mobile unit for CT scans and two new mobile MRI units to reduce wait times for diagnostic procedures. The units will be able to provide more than 11,600 CT scans and 7,200 MRIs per year, according to a provincial news release.

No information was given on when they would become operational.

Similarly, the province announced that Misericordia Health Center cataract program services will be expanded, but did not say how or when.

“We promise to keep you posted next time,” MacDonald said.

Spine Assessments

The Winnipeg Spine Assessment Clinic is getting $400,000 to add four physiotherapists and increase the number of assessments for about 900 back pain sufferers, Gordon said.

About 90% of patients referred to the assessment clinic can be helped by treatments other than surgery, such as physical therapy and chiropractic care, Gordon said.

These additional staff members are expected to be in place in the coming months, with the aim of reducing the waiting list for spine assessments by next spring.

A pilot project with Sanford Health in North Dakota is now well underway, with nine Manitobans having had spinal surgery to date and more expected in the coming weeks, the province said.

“We’re going to start scaling that up,” said Ian Shaw, Manitoba Health’s director of transformation management.

“It will happen over months. It’s not something you should expect to happen overnight. We’re trying to manage this in a very safe way for patients.”

The creation of the Surgical Diagnosis and Recovery Task Force was first announced in November, when the province’s backlog was estimated at 130,000 procedures.

Since then, however, the backlog has swelled to nearly 168,000 procedures, Doctors Manitoba said last week.

The advocacy organization tracked the various pending procedures on an online dashboard, updating it monthly.

While Doctors Manitoba applauded the establishment of a task force, he repeatedly urged the province to be more transparent about the team’s efforts, including setting target dates to clear backlogs and providing comprehensive monthly reports to monitor this progress.

Focus on wait times

MacDonald said the task force didn’t fully agree with the numbers compiled by Doctors Manitoba. The task force is working with the group of doctors to try to verify those numbers, he said.

“We both recognize that there are pitfalls in the methodology on both sides,” he said, noting that wait times may be a more important metric for patients than a large number representing. the backlog.

“When you look at the backlog numbers, they’re very disheartening. And then when you talk to the front lines, you get a different story in some areas,” MacDonald said.

Asked about current wait times, MacDonald said “there is a wide range of procedures” and different levels of urgency. The task force “has a good idea” of average wait times for most procedures, but it would take some time to collect that.

He agreed that this should be included on the provincial task force website, which is outdated and being updated.

Dr Ed Buchel, head of surgery on the task force’s steering committee, said the group is creating a surgical wait list management system that will give patients answers about how many people on the waiting list and how long they will be waiting.

“We’re not trying to hide anything. There’s nothing in a surgical program that I wouldn’t want to do more than share real data,” he said. “It’s a fundamental thing that our system needed.”

Without such an information management system, that’s a better estimate, “and that translates to Doctors Manitoba’s numbers versus ours,” Buchel said.

Some procedures fully restored

Earlier this month, the task force reported that the number of surgeries and diagnostic procedures performed each week at a number of Manitoba hospitals was gradually increasing as staff returned to their regular assignments after caring for patients with COVID-19.

Currently, 146 staff remain reassigned or redeployed – the lowest number since the peak of the third wave of COVID in July 2021, Gordon said on Wednesday.

“We hope everyone will be back by the end of April,” she said.

The task force aims to bring all wait times back to 2019 levels. There’s no target date for that yet, but the province is making “incredible progress” and the latest initiatives are “laying the groundwork.” more improvements to come,” MacDonald said.

Gordon noted that endoscopy services and bariatric surgeries are examples of procedures that were fully restored to pre-pandemic levels last week.

There are also plans to staff many sites at 75-100% surgical capacity over the summer, a time when surgical slates typically drop to around 40%, she said.

That equates to 200 to 250 surgeries over the summer months, she said.

“Not good enough”: opposition

The opposition NDP and Liberals have reacted harshly to the update, saying it offers no confidence.

“If you are a Manitoban waiting for a life-changing, potentially life-saving surgery…or a really important diagnostic test, unfortunately today you did not get an answer as to when your surgery was or of your test will be available,” NDP health spokesperson Uzoma Asagwara said.

The Progressive Conservative government has the resources at its disposal — and the responsibility — to set a deadline to clear the backlogs, but “they refuse to do that,” Asagwara said.

“They don’t want to be responsible for their own decisions and responsibilities.”

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont accused the government of setting the bar low for success.

“It’s hard to believe, but PCs aren’t even trying to fix what they broke. They want to get back to 2019’s waitlist levels, which were already bad and had gotten worse for three years in a row due to PC cuts.” he said in a statement.

“It’s nowhere near good enough.”

The President of Doctors Manitoba was further encouraged by the government announcements.

in a statement, Dr Kristjan Thompson called the steps “concrete steps” in the right direction, but only the beginning of “much more work and investment”. [that] will be needed to eliminate the huge surgical and diagnostic backlog. »

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