Members of a new provincial task force say no stone will be overlooked to expedite care for an estimated 30,000 people whose surgeries have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, they were unable to provide a timeline for clearing the huge backlog.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon on Wednesday unveiled the steering committee of the “Surgical Diagnosis and Recovery Task Force” at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
âI know these stories of delayed care touch all of us,â Gordon told reporters. “They are scary for us and our loved ones.”
Kim Riddell has been waiting for surgery for spinal stenosis since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Riddell said in addition to the pain and balance issues, she can’t return to work until she has had surgery.
She said she wanted the working group to report on specific progress in reducing the backlog and come up with a clear timeline for the next time she is in the queue.
“It’s personal, it’s my life,” said Riddell, who spoke to reporters after the announcement.
“No specific date and targeted funds … so that doesn’t help me at all.”
The working group will be chaired by Dr. Peter MacDonald, who has headed the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine since 2007.
âWe cannot promise that we will provide all the answers, but we can promise that we will work very hard and leave no stone unturned,â MacDonald said.
âThis is a critical time in the history of our health care in our province and we need to make sure we get it right.
Matthew Lister, an Ontario healthcare administrator specializing in high reliability healthcare systems and services, has been selected as the task force’s project team leader.
He said the project team is still in development, but a core of people have been consulting with healthcare providers since October.
A timeline to clear the surgical backlog, which provincial officials estimate at 25,000 to 30,000 patients, could arrive early next year, when the task force is expected to provide its first progress report, Lister said.
“I cannot, at this stage, speak of a specific timetable,” he said. “We always collect a lot of information from our frontline staff and from different units.”
According to the task force, it is still unclear exactly how many surgeries and diagnostic procedures have been delayed; as the first order of business, the working group sets up an information management system specific to their needs to guide the work in the future.
Steering committee member Dr Ed Buchel, chief of surgery at Shared Health, said the task force’s goal is to restore surgical services to pre-pandemic baselines early in the new year.
Buchel said the task force will gradually build on current efforts to maintain surgical and diagnostic services amid the pandemic – which include contracting with external service providers, developing alternative care models. and the hiring of more nurses.
“This is not the starting point for the work that has been done, it is a consolidation, so that we can get more support from our government, from experts who help us coordinate the care that we are desperately trying to get. lavish, âsays Buchel.
âWe’re going to deliver personnel, we are going to deliver space so that we can perform surgeries in our province. ”
“We’re going to deliver personnel, we’re going to deliver space so that we can perform surgeries in our province.” – Member of the board of directors Dr Ed Buchel
No new commitments to recruit health workers or additional funding were announced on Wednesday.
The Manitoba government has already announced $ 50 million to cover surgical and diagnostic delays; to date, $ 8.8 million has been spent performing over 9,000 procedures through third-party providers, including heart and hernia surgeries and endoscopies.
âIf it requires more funding, we’re open as a government to do it, to provide the funds to make sure this backlog is cleared,â Gordon said.
Some surgical patients may also be transferred out of the province if they are unable to perform their procedure in Manitoba in a timely manner and if continuing to wait would result in worse health outcomes, Buchel said.
However, there are currently no plans to send “routine cases” that are pending out of the province and the system is trying “very hard” not to send cardiac and brain surgery patients out of the province. province, he noted.
In a statement, Doctors Manitoba said it was encouraged by the mandate and membership of the working group. The doctors’ association first called for a task force six months ago and estimates the total backlog includes more than 152,000 surgical and diagnostic cases.
âAssuming the task force has access to the funding and support it needs, we believe it can do the job,â the advocacy group said. âWhat we haven’t heard today is how long it will take to clear this backlog. Manitobans need to know how long their wait will be.
âWhat we haven’t heard today is how long it will take to clear this backlog. Manitobans need to know how long will be waiting for them. – Manitoba Physicians
Meanwhile, the union representing workers who perform the bulk of diagnostic procedures and provide post-operative rehabilitation services said it was concerned that there was no commitment to address staff shortages. .
“We need paramedics to be a priority or any plan to deal with the backlog will not be effective and put Manitobans at risk,” said Manitoba Health Professionals Association president Bob Moroz .
NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said government sluggishness and lack of spending to address surgical and diagnostic delays have left Manitobans whose lives on hold pending treatment frustration .
âWe heard all the fanfare leading up to today and then there was no actual live action announcement,â Kinew said. “It’s just another plan to have a plan.”
– with files from Dylan Robertson