‘An urgent plan is necessary’ Horwath calls on province to clear surgery backlog

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath with local MPPs Teresa Armstrong, Terence Kernaghan, and Peggy Sattler outside of the London Health Sciences Centre, June 23, 2021. Image from zoom.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is warning Ontario is lagging behind other provinces when it comes to tackling the surgical backlog amassed during the pandemic.

Figures released by the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) indicate it will take $1.3 billion and more than three years to clear the over 400,000 surgeries and 2.5 million procedures that have been delayed by COVID-19 over the past 16 months. In London, the surgical backlog at the London Health Sciences Centre was reportedly 4,500 as of February.

“An urgent plan is necessary, with targets, with specifics in terms of pieces that will be implemented to reach those targets and a clear understanding that that plan is going to be fully funded to get at the backlog,” said Horwath. “I am shocked we don’t have that right now.”

Horwath issued the call for an action plan while standing outside the London Health Sciences Centre with local MPPs Teresa Armstrong, Terence Kernaghan, and Peggy Sattler on Wednesday.

The backlog of non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures began growing in mid-March 2020. The pandemic saw hospitals across the country and the world halt most elective procedures. They were allowed to resume for a few months in Ontario before the third wave led to hospitals again being directed to cancel non-emergency procedures in mid-April 2021. The provincial government allowed some hospitals to resume these surgeries and procedures again about a month later.

According to the Ontario Medical Association the leading skipped or delayed procedures include MRIs, knee and hip replacements, and coronary bypass surgeries.

“It is just not fair to Ontarians,” said Horwath.

She pointed to British Columbia where the government has cleared 95 per cent of its backlog by March of this year.

“They started tackling this problem back in the summer of last year and therefore are in much better shape in terms of accumulated backlog,” said Horwath. “These are humans. These are our friends, our neighbours, our coworkers. They are people we see every day who are concerned about their conditions worsening because their surgeries are being delayed or their diagnostics are not being scheduled and perhaps a health problem is worsening in the meanwhile.”

In its latest budget, Ontario announced $610 million to help clear the backlog. Blackburn News reached out to Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office for comment, but as of publication had not received a response.