Physicians in our province are calling for decisive action as the backlog in surgeries and diagnostic tests continues to grow.

Doctors Manitoba estimates the "pandemic backlog" has reached over 110,000 procedures and is growing.

"The pandemic backlog of medical tests and surgeries is staggering, and it's getting bigger every day," Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba says in a Thursday conference. "As we move past this third wave, patients need to see immediate and sustained action to address this critical issue."

It is estimated that the backlog includes more than 39,000 surgeries, more than 44,000 diagnostic imaging procedures and more than 32,000 other procedures such as endoscopies, mammograms and allergy tests. There are an estimated 3,500 to 5,000 children and youth currently impacted by the surgery backlog.

In order to address the situation, Doctors Manitoba is recommending three broad actions.

First of all, it wants a clear provincial commitment to fully address the pandemic backlog by a fixed date. It is also asking for the creation of a surgery and diagnostic recovery task force, including both health system leaders and front-line physicians and health care workers, to lead the immediate and sustained task of addressing the backlog. And finally, Doctors Manitoba would like to see monthly public reporting on the size of the backlog and on actions to improve the situation.

"We recognize the provincial government invested in reducing wait times, but unfortunately all of that progress has been erased by this pandemic," adds Dr. Thompson. "We now face a backlog and waitlists that are longer than most physicians have ever seen, and this crisis requires an immediate and ongoing coordinated response from provincial leaders."

Physicians cited a shortage of nurses and technologists as the top barriers to addressing the backlog, suggesting this is a problem that started long before the pandemic. They say this left Manitoba's hospitals especially vulnerable during the pandemic, perhaps more so than any other province, because there was little capacity to absorb even a moderate increase in COVID-19 admissions without significant disruptions to other hospital services.

According to Doctors Manitoba, the diagnostic and surgery backlog is one of the top concerns for physicians in our province, who are worried about their patients. It says delays and repeated cancellations are leading to patients waiting in pain and discomfort, minor health issues becoming more complicated, requiring more complex surgeries and longer hospital stays; and patient harm, including delayed diagnosis, permanent disability and death.