There is an estimated 153,320-case backlog in diagnostics and surgeries in Manitoba, but Doctors Manitoba cautions that this estimate is from before the omicron variant arrived in the province.

Doctors Manitoba is asking people to be patient as they face staff absenteeism alongside rising COVID-19 omicron pressures.

"Manitobans need hope and we absolutely need to look after each other," President Dr. Kristjan Thompson says in a Thursday press conference. 

He says they will not stop fighting to get Manitobans the care they need.

"These aren't just numbers; this is 10 per cent of Manitoba's population," the doctor says, referencing the number of COVID-19 cases. "We need to do everything we can to not just protect ourselves, but others."

Thompson says he has never heard of a backlog of this size, expecting next month that backlog to increase. A recent patient of his that experienced a burst appendix needed to wait 10 hours before getting care.

"We just did not have a bed to take care of him," Thompson says. "This patient waited 10 hours suffering and in agony... my heart just sinks."

He is seeing cancer patients in hallways, throwing up in buckets and the only care he can offer is a wet towel.

"This is not how physicians want to offer care. This is not the kind of care that I want to provide."

Deaths are not calculated in these statistics, something Thompson says is difficult to calculate at this point. He hopes for a review in the future once the pandemic has ended.

He wants people to stay diligent against the virus, saying now is not the time to give up.

An increase of 1,204 backlogged cases since the previous month is being estimated. Doctors Manitoba says there are some improvements to the backlog, specifically with diagnostic imaging and procedures.

This month they are seeing an improvement of 407 diagnostic imaging cases to an estimated 42,524 cases. There is an improvement of 55 "other" diagnostic procedures cases to a 52,969-case backlog.

"It is important to note that most of these estimates cover a period before the Omicron wave had started in Manitoba, and we know this is causing more disruptions for a variety of procedures," the Thursday statement says. "Physicians understand the frustration this causes patients, and they share it."

They say rural hospitals are facing staff disruptions. Hospital beds, ER care, ambulance availability, outpatient clinics, and medical clinics are being challenged by the increase in care backups.


Backup data

Doctors Manitoba says:

  • backlog grew in November for cardiac, hip/knee and other surgeries, but improved modestly for cataract surgery
  • in diagnostic imaging, we estimate the backlog grew for myocardial perfusion and bone density studies, but improved for MRI and ultrasound
  • In other procedures, we estimate the backlog grew for allergy tests and endoscopies, but improved modestly for mammograms and sleep studies

He says ideally hospitals should be operating at 80 per cent. Pre-pandemic, these health care facilities would be operating at 100 per cent capacity for days.

"You could have 1,000 beds and 1,000 ventilators, it does mean anything if you do not have the people there to take care of those beds," Thompson says.

Thompson is asking for support to help with burnout and moral distress in healthcare workers. He says retention and recruiting are important to help with the care backlogs.