The backlog of surgeries and non-urgent medical procedures in Ontario has grown exponentially since the pandemic started, reaching nearly 16 million backlogged to date. Ontario health unions are now warning that due to staff shortages they won't likely be able to effectively catch up.
"We do not have the number of registered nurses to deal with a 115 per cent capacity that hospitals think that they will be able to work at, I'll be happy if we can work at the 100 per cent level," says Doris Grinspun, CEO of Ontario registered nurses association. "We went into this pandemic with the lowest RN levels per population, layered to that is the fact that this pandemic was lengthy, nurses are exhausted and a good percentage of RNs say post pandemic they're leaving."
Backlogs and staff shortages aren't new problems for hospitals, however, the pandemic has really expedited the situation and the result is that staff are completely exhausted.
"I can tell that my physician colleagues across the province saying this very much loud and clear, not only during the pandemic which has completely ramped up that level of burn out, but this was a problem even before," says Dr. Adam Kassam, president of the Ontario Medical Association.
Ontario's backlog is currently the equivalent of around one procedure per resident of Ontario, meaning the wait times for procedures have grown exponentially as well.
"A knee replacement is about a 22-month delay, so we're almost at two years for your procedure, for cataracts you're looking at 21 months, for MRIs its 10 months, for CT scans in four months and you can keep going down the list," he says.
For the Head of the OMA, wait times between seeing your doctor and having you procedure is having an extreme impact on patients, lowering their quality of life.
On the other hand, both Grinspun and Kassam say the new funding could be provided to hire and train new staff which is a good sign that they may be starting to head down the right path.