MRI and ultrasound waitlists increase as Manitoba touts progress in surgical backlog

Winnipeg –

The new leader of Manitoba’s Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force says progress is being made to cut back the pandemic surgical backlog, however provincial data shows waitlists are increasing for ultrasounds and MRIs.

On Thursday, former Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority CEO David Matear announced he would be taking over the task force’s helm as the new provincial executive director.

“My vision for the taskforce is that we make measurable progress on addressing backlogs that resulted from the pandemic, while also contributing significant improvements to the health-care system,” Matear said, adding he has been in the new role since last week.

According to the province, while the waitlist for CT scans dropped from 17,063 in February to 16,546 in April, the waitlist for ultrasounds and MRIs both increased.

As of Wednesday, the ultrasounds waitlist increased to 20,854 (up from 20,626 as of Feb. 28), and the MRI waitlist increased to 15,754 (up from 15,282 as of Feb. 28).

Matear said the task force has received dozens of proposals aimed at reducing this backlog and is currently working through them.

He said last month, eligible patients began travelling from Manitoba to Sanford Health in Fargo for specialty spine services. As of Thursday, Matear said 15 patients have received care through this initiative, with several more patients scheduled to make the trip.

Additionally, he said the fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) began as of last week. This allows doctors to refer patients with lower risk of colorectal cancer to FIT testing, which Matear said will help reduce the number of follow-up colonoscopies by at least of 10,000, accounting for about 10 per cent of the backlog.

He said the taskforce has received dozens of proposals aimed at reducing the backlog and is currently working through them.

He said the goal is to bring surgeries back to 100 per cent of the pre-pandemic level.

“As soon as you get to that point, in essence what you are doing is you are slowing the growth of the backlog. So we are trying to do everything to reduce the growth of the backlog,” Matear said, adding as of Sunday surgical activity in Winnipeg was at about 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“The more we get to that 100 per cent level, the slower the backlog will increase.”

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