Over 100K-plus waiting to be recommended for surgery in Ontario during pandemic
According to data obtained by Global News, Ontario doubled the number of so-called “long-waiters” during the pandemic – patients whose surgery is delayed longer than their maximum clinical guidelines – with poor medical outcomes. is a matter of concern.
According to government documents, nearly half of patients on Ontario’s surgical waiting list were forced to delay longer than doctors recommended — a 123 per cent increase compared to pre-pandemic levels.
By early 2022, the number of patients waiting longer than recommended was 105,000, according to data compiled by the health ministry, at a time when hospitals delayed non-urgent surgeries to maintain capacity amid the introduction of the Omicron variant of Covid. Was doing. -19.
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In 2019, an average of 47,000 people on Ontario’s surgical lists waited longer than clinical guidelines for their procedure, representing 23 per cent of the total number on the surgical waiting list.
By 2022, the number of long-waiting people is expected to grow to represent 43 percent of a waiting list of 250,000 people, according to ministry documents obtained by Global News.
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the perils of waiting
“Delayed care will inevitably lead to complications,” David Gomez, an acute care and trauma surgeon in Toronto, told Global News.
“From the most common procedures performed in Ontario – which are cataracts, hips and knees, inguinal hernia – the likelihood that a delayed operation leads to death is very, very low. It’s not zero, but it is very, very low. Is.”
Gomez said the likelihood that the delay will affect quality of life, however, is high.
Delay may increase pain or discomfort depending on the procedure or may lead to more trips and falls, for example, in those with reduced mobility or vision.
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According to a recent report by the Fraser Institute on access to health care in Canada, long wait times are more than a “benign inconvenience,” they can leave patients with serious consequences such as aches and pains, mental anguish, and long-term risks. ,
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“In some instances, they can also result in poor medical outcomes – turning potentially reversible diseases or injuries into chronic, irreversible conditions or even permanent disabilities,” the report said. “
The Fraser Institute also indicated that in some cases patients have had to forgo their wages while awaiting treatment.
Gomez said, “In the ideal surgical system, I believe that long waiting times should not exist because we are defining a clinical threshold where we expect that some patients Some patients – not the majority – will experience complications of morbidity from waiting.”
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The Ford government won’t say whether the situation has improved.
While the Ford government has thrown millions of dollars at the problem, including leaning on independent health facilities to reduce the backlog, the province declined to say whether it has successfully reduced the number of long wait times in the system .
Repeated requests for updated data and information have not been met and a spokesperson for Ontario Health said on December 4, 2022, that the waiting list for surgery stood at approximately 209,000 people, down from 250,000 people recorded in April.
Responding to further questions on January 23, a spokesperson for Ontario Health said that the number of long wait times “is starting to go down, as we have prioritized that patients get their surgery within the recommended wait time. “
He said that between November 28 and December 4, 2022, 77 percent of cancer surgeries were completed within the target time, but gave no details for the total number of those waiting longer.
That’s the same figure for cancer surgeries through 2021, according to briefing documents obtained by Global News.
A slide titled “Focus on Cancer Surgery” in December 2021 states that 77 percent of surgeries were completed on time, compared to 87 percent pre-pandemic.
Global News obtained the figures as part of a freedom of information request for parts of an infection binder presented to new health minister Sylvia Jones during the summer.
That document – Surgical and Diagnostic Recovery: Foundation Overview – should have been presented to the minister as he was introduced to his role.
A line included in the presentation states, “The ministry’s surgical recovery programs aim to reduce the number of patients with long waiting times from the current level of ~110K to the pre-pandemic normal of 50K.”
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The surgical recovery program includes funding for expanded health care hours, additional MRI and CT time and “targeted funding for pediatric and private hospitals,” another slide explains.
However, as Ontario hospitals grapple with the pressure of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19 triple threat during the fall, some have been forced to scale back surgery.
In Eastern Ontario, a children’s hospital also received aid from the Red Cross.
Provincial officials have been unclear about how that latest wave of illness has affected Ontario’s long-term plans to deal with long-waiting numbers.
Ontario Health told Global News, “To prioritize those who have waited beyond their target time for surgery and to help Ontarians get their non-urgent surgeries and procedures done faster, Health The ministry has made an investment of $300 million in 2022-23.”