Ontario Medical Association details staggering health care backlog

A doctor writing notes. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / photography33.

A new analysis by the Ontario Medical Association [OMA] found the COVID-19 pandemic created a staggering backlog of almost 20 million health-care services, including doctors’ visits, diagnostic tests, treatments and surgeries.

The OMA says the backlog is based on OHIP data from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to September 2021

“The urgent need to focus on solutions to improve patient care is a top priority for the profession,” said OMA President Dr. Adam Kassam. “Physicians have a prescription for the future of health care and a roadmap to transformation for Ontario.”

Fixing Ontario’s health-care system will not be quick or easy, said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette, and neither doctors nor the provincial government can do it alone.

“It requires collaboration among health providers, support from the public, and political will, including significant investment from the federal government, including increased spending through the Canada Health Transfer to the provinces to cover 35 per cent of all health-care costs, up from the current 22 per cent,” O’Dette said.

The backlog and estimated time to catch up on five of the most common medical procedures – assuming doctors worked 120 per cent more hours than they did before the pandemic is as follows:

30 months for knee replacements (52,492 people waiting)
25 months for cataract surgeries (108,736)
19 months for hip replacements (22,308)
14 months for heart bypass surgery (4,296)
11 months for MRIs (502,476)

The backlog will take years to clear, and that’s even if doctors and other health-care professionals worked even more days and longer hours and there were more ORs, hospital beds and other resources.  It comes on top of pre-pandemic wait times that were well above recommended timelines for many procedures.

The OMA release says Ontario spends less on health care per capita than any other province in Canada except British Columbia. It added the province also needs more doctors, personal support workers and other health-care professionals at a time when many are retiring or leaving the profession because of burnout.

The Association says to fill the gap, we need to reduce the backlog of services and reduce wait times. It calls for expanded mental health and addiction programs in the community, as well as improved and expand home care and other community care.  The OMA also wants to see Ontario strengthen public health and pandemic preparedness, and give every patient a team of health-care providers, linked digitally