Orthopedic operations at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg will be 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 county, Health Secretary Audrey Gordon said at a news conference Wednesday morning, where the task force assigned to address the backlog of delayed procedures in Manitoba gave an update on the progress.
Also, four hospital beds will be added and anesthesia staff will be expanded at Concordia, Gordon said at the announcement at the Concordia Hip and Knee Institute.
The Hospital in northeast Winnipeg is the county’s premier location for joint replacement surgery. But a significant number of patients had to wait for their procedures as staff, beds and other resources were reallocated for the pandemic response.
The improvements are expected to increase capacity by up to 1,000 operations per year, but are not expected to roll out until the end of the year.
“The number of surgeries here is way behind for this year, but what are we talking about with the extra 1,000 .? [is] after we get back to baseline [levels]said Dr. Peter MacDonald, Chairman of the Task Force Steering Committee.
That means “not just going back to baseline,” but adding operations, he said.
“As an orthopedic surgeon, I know the great benefits hip and knee surgery can have on a person’s quality of life and overall health, so that’s a very meaningful initiative to see progress.”
Rene Comeau, a Winnipeg resident who has been waiting for a knee replacement for three years, welcomed the idea that he could be given a surgery date.
“I can’t do things for too long. It’s half an hour of work with maybe an hour of sitting,” he said.
The province is also purchasing a new mobile unit for CT scans and two new mobile MRI units to reduce waiting times for diagnostic procedures. According to a county press release, the units will be able to deliver more than 11,600 CT scans and 7,200 MRIs annually.
No information was given as to when they would become operational.
Likewise, the county announced that the services of the misericordia health center’s cataract program will be expanded, but said nothing about how or when.
“We promise to keep you updated next time,” MacDonald said.
The Spine Assessment Clinic in Winnipeg is getting $400,000 to add four physical therapists and increase assessments for about 900 people with back pain, Gordon said.
About 90 percent of patients referred to the assessment clinic can be helped by treatments other than surgery, such as physical therapy and chiropractic care, Gordon said.
Those additional staff should be deployed in the coming months, with the goal of reducing the waiting list for spine assessments by next spring.
A pilot project with Sanford Health in North Dakota is now underway, with nine Manitobans so far undergoing spinal surgery there, and more are planned in the coming weeks, the county said.
“We’re going to scale that up,” said Ian Shaw, Manitoba Health director of transformation management.
“This will happen over the course of months. This is not something you should see happen overnight. We are trying to arrange this in a very safe way for the patients.”
The creation of the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force was first announced in November, when the county’s backlog was estimated at 130,000 procedures.
Since then, however, the backlog has grown to nearly 168,000 procedures, Doctors Manitoba said last week.
The advocacy organization keeps track of the various backlogs in proceedings on an online dashboard and updates it monthly.
While Doctors Manitoba has welcomed the implementation of a task force, it has repeatedly urged the province to be more transparent about the team’s efforts, including setting target dates to clear the backlogs and providing comprehensive, monthly reporting to monitor that progress.
Focus on waiting times
MacDonald said the task force does not fully agree with the numbers collected by Doctors Manitoba. The task force is working with the physician group 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.
“If you look at the backlog numbers, they’re very discouraging. And then when you talk to the front lines, you get a different story in some areas,” MacDonald said.
When asked what the current waiting times are, MacDonald said that “there is a huge spectrum of procedures” and different levels of urgency. The task force “has a good idea” about average wait times for most procedures, but it would take some time to collect that.
He acknowledged that this should be included on the task force’s provincial website, which is outdated and currently being upgraded.
dr. Ed Buchel, the surgical leader of the task force’s steering committee, said the group is creating a surgical waiting list management system that will provide patients with answers about how many people are on the waiting list and how long their wait will be.
“We’re not trying to hide anything. There’s nothing, from a surgical program, that I wouldn’t want to do more than share real data,” he said. “This is a basic, fundamental thing that our system needed.”
Without such an information management system, it’s a best bet, “and that translates into Doctors Manitoba’s numbers versus our numbers,” Buchel said.
Some procedures fully recovered
Earlier this month, the task force reported that the number of surgeries and diagnostic procedures performed each week at a number of hospitals in Manitoba has gradually increased as staff return to their regular duties of caring for COVID-19 patients.
Currently, 146 staff members remain transferred or redeployed — the lowest number since the peak of the third COVID-19 wave in July 2021, Gordon said on Wednesday.
“We hope to have everyone back by the end of April,” she said.
The task force is aiming to reduce all waiting times to 2019 levels. There is no target date for that yet, but the province is making “incredible progress” and the latest initiatives are “laying the groundwork for more improvements,” MacDonald said.
Gordon noted that endoscopy services and bariatric surgeries are examples of procedures that have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels as of last week.
There are also plans to staff many sites over the summer at 75 to 100 percent of surgical capacity, a time when surgical slates typically drop to about 40 percent, she said.
That equates to 200-250 surgeries in the summer months, she said.
‘Nowhere good enough’: opposition
The opposition NDP and Liberals reacted harshly to the update, saying it lacked confidence.
“If you’re a Manitoban waiting for life-changing surgery, possibly life-saving surgery…or a very important diagnostic test, unfortunately you haven’t gotten an answer today about when your surgery or test will be available,” said NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara.
The Progressive Conservative government has resources at its disposal – and a responsibility – to set a deadline for clearing backlogs, but “they refuse to do it,” Asagwara said.
“They don’t want to be accountable for their own decision making and responsibilities.”
Manitoba’s liberal leader Dougald Lamont accused the government of setting a low bar for success.
“It’s hard to believe, but the PCs aren’t even trying to fix what they’ve broken. They want to get back to the waiting list levels of 2019, which were already bad and got worse for three years because of PC budget cuts,” he said in a statement. statement.
“This is not nearly good enough.”
The president of Doctors Manitoba was more encouraged by the government’s announcements.
In a statement, Dr Kristjan Thompson called the measures “concrete steps” in the right direction, but only a start to “much more work and investment [that] will be needed to overcome the huge surgical and diagnostic backlog.”