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News Release - Manitoba

December 8, 2021

Task Force Established To Address Diagnostic And Surgical Backlogs

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Work is Already Underway on Initiative to Support Patients and Build a Stronger System with Manitoba Health Care Leaders: Gordon

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The Manitoba government has established a task force to address the diagnostic and surgical backlogs as the top priority, Health and Seniors Care Minister Audrey Gordon announced today.

“Adding more diagnostic and surgical procedures throughout the health-care system is a priority that requires us to take steps today, while developing plans to improve the system for Manitoba patients,” said Gordon. “The strain put on Manitoba’s health-care system by the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency of this work, but also highlights the need to find solutions over the short, medium and long term.

The Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force will address wait-lists for diagnostic and surgical procedures, as well as related services affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will include identifying the priority needs of patients and implementing local and out-of-province services as a temporary initiative to offer the safest and most timely health-care solutions available.

The task force includes highly respected local health-care professionals, supported by experts from across Canada. They have already begun working closely with health-care experts across the system to identify and implement short- and long-term solutions to deal with the wait-lists. This includes:

  • creating a centralized information management system for health-care providers that will include surgical and diagnostic wait-list information to help streamline when and where surgeries and tests can be done as quickly as possible;
  • ensuring health-care providers are working to their full scope of practice, such as licensed practical nurses, who can expand patient resources required for surgery;
  • providing updates on a monthly basis to ensure timely, consistent and transparent information to Manitobans in line with recommendations;
  • negotiating agreements with specialized health-care providers inside and outside of Manitoba who can increase the number of surgeries and other services that can be performed while the backlog is being reduced; and
  • identifying patients who are ready for their procedures and could travel to another jurisdiction if it could be performed there sooner, while also identifying any supports they may need to do this safely.

The task force will include individuals with significant expertise related to surgical and diagnostic services, analysis and evaluation, and project management. A steering committee has also been established to set the direction of the task force and access the expertise of Manitoba’s health-care system. The steering committee members include physicians, nurses and patient and citizen representatives. The minister noted Dr. Peter MacDonald, a renowned Winnipeg surgeon, past-president of the Canadian Orthopedics Association, vice-president of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, and chief innovation and research officer at the Pan Am Clinic will serve as the task force chair.

“There are innovators and problem solvers in every sector, and we have already benefited from hearing from many of them in Manitoba’s health-care system,” said MacDonald. “Our role will be to leverage their expertise that will reduce wait times, improve patient care and find solutions to challenges that have existed in the system for years and, in some cases, likely even decades. This is not a single solution, but a progression of improvements that will help us achieve our goal.”

An initial report can be expected in the new year, which will set out an analysis of the current situation, a summary of progress made to date and how success will be measured, the minister said.

The work of the task force builds on existing provincial investments and measures to reduce wait-lists and support access to care. The province has already invested more than $8.8 million this year in agreements with public and private service providers to increase the number of high-demand procedures offered. The agreements require these providers to build new capacity, to ensure they are not taking much-needed staff and other resources from the health-care system. This has resulted in a net increase of more than 9,000 procedures completed in 2021/22 including cataract surgery, echocardiography, hernia surgery, pediatric dental surgery, spine surgeries and endoscopies.

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