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Manitoba Must Act Now To Start Clearing Massive Backlog of Tests and Surgeries

Treaty 1 Territory, Métis Homeland, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberal MLAs say the PCs need to immediately get to work with doctors and other health care professionals to come up with a plan for clearing the province's massive backlog of medical procedures.

Wait times for hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery were all getting steadily worse while the PCs cut and froze Manitoba's health care system, then lists exploded during the pandemic as procedures were cancelled and personnel moved to fighting Covid.

Manitoba Liberal Health Critic Dr. Jon Gerrard said it is routine to hear of people waiting more than a year for hip or knee replacement surgery, adults having to wait more than a year for cataract surgery, and children having to wait two and a half years for an ophthalmology consultation.

There are also extra-long waits for cardiac surgery and for many other diagnostic procedures as well as many other surgeries. In June, Doctors Manitoba warned that the backlog was over 110,000 procedures.

Manitoba Liberal MLAs say Manitoba must act now to address the backlog, by:

  • Lifting the cap which puts artificial limits on the number hip and knee replacements and cataract surgeries per year, and allow surgeons and their teams to do more procedures

  • Rebuild and reinvest in the public system with a focus on long-term retention of physicians, nurse and staff

  • Define wait times realistically, as being from "diagnosis to treatment" - and not as the Manitoba's health system often currently measures it - from scheduling a procedure to getting one

"There are tens of thousands of Manitobans who are stuck suffering on waiting lists when, with treatment, they could be walking, seeing and working," said Dr. Jon Gerrard, Manitoba Liberal Health Critic.

Gerrard said there needs to be a particular focus on rebuilding eye care in Manitoba. Current waitlists for cataracts and other eye procedures are enormously backlogged, and there is a shortage of doctors and facilities - despite the "Centre of Excellence" at the Misericordia Hospital.

The Manitoba Liberals said waitlists for pediatric eye treatments are so long that children of 5 may wait half their lives before getting treatment. By that point, the part of the child's brain dedicated to processing vision may never develop, even if surgery is successful.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said only investment in the public health care system will work.

"We can't let the PCs use the excuse that because they broke the public health system, that it can't be fixed. This practical reality is that so few people can afford private treatment that it won't make a difference in wait lists. Rebuilding the public system is the only way to clear the backlog, and it needs to start now. Investing in making Manitobans healthier always pays off."

A 2020 Conference Board of Canada report on eye care showed that, "The economic benefits of preserving vision far outweigh the costs of ophthalmic interventions... In 2007, the cost of vision loss in Canada was estimated at $15.8 billion and is projected to grow to $30.3 billion by 2032."

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