Ontario government rolls out plan to reduce massive surgery backlog
In this Thursday, May 14, 2020 photo, medical staff transfer a patient through a corridor at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, in Blackburn, England, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)
TORONTO -- The Ontario government has rolled out its plan to address a massive surgery backlog that resulted from the suspension of elective procedures earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, the Ministry of Health instructed hospitals to put elective procedures on hold in order to preserve capacity for potential COVID-19 patients. The order then remained in effect until late May, by which point tens of thousands of procedures had been affected.
During a press conference on Friday, Premier Doug Ford said that his government will be investing more than $283 million in supporting additional priority surgeries as it seeks to eliminate the backlog.
It will also spend an additional $457.5 million on increasing community capacity, including home and community care, as it works to preserve hospital capacity in the advance of a possible second wave of COVID-19.
The announcement are both part of a wider fall preparedness plan being rolled out by the Ford government on a piecemeal basis this week.
As part of the$283 million investment announced on Friday, the province will be expanding diagnostic imaging hours at health care facilities for MRI’s, CT scans and other critical procedures. It will also add 139 critical care beds and 1,349 additional hospital beds to hospitals and alternative healthcare facilities to support the additional procedures.
“This will allow us to perform more than 50,000 more surgeries and up to 184,000 more MRI’s and CT scans,” Ford said of the plan.
At this point it is unclear how quickly the province will be able to address the surgery backlog but one study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal earlier this month suggested that it could take upwards of 84 weeks.
That study estimated the total backlog at 148, 364 surgeries.
“We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 outbreak in Ontario meant that we had to take extraordinary measures to keep the people of Ontario safe. That included having to put important medical measures on hold to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all patients within our hospitals,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said during Friday’s news conference.
“We know how stressful this has been for patients and their loved ones which is why our government is working very hard to create the capacity needed to address the backlog so patients can get the care that they need.”