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HomeHealth and LifestyleOntario Medical Association Says Pandemic Measures Created A "Staggering" Backlog Of Almost...

Ontario Medical Association Says Pandemic Measures Created A “Staggering” Backlog Of Almost 20 Million Healthcare Services

KAWARTHA LAKES-A new analysis by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA)found the COVID-19 pandemic measures implemented by the Ontario government created a staggering backlog of almost 20 million healthcare services, including doctors’ visits, diagnostic tests, treatments and surgeries.

This backlog is based on OHIP data from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to September 2021. It will take years to clear, even if doctors and other healthcare professionals worked even more days and longer hours and there were more ORs, hospital beds and other resources to support them.

It’s in addition to pre-pandemic wait times that were well above recommended timelines for many procedures according to OMA. Officials say it doesn’t address the other cracks in the healthcare system that widened during the pandemic. It doesn’t include the looming mental health tsunami or the patients who were not diagnosed or treated during the pandemic and now are showing up sicker and requiring more aggressive treatment

Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care is the result of the broadest consultation in the OMA’s 140-year history according to the OMA. More than 110 healthcare organizations, social service agencies and community leaders provided input. Almost 8,000 Ontarians from 600 communities across the province shared their views through an online survey.

“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 healthcare 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 a 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 new analysis of 20 million backlogged healthcare services is the first time the OMA has reported on the full impact of the pandemic from its official start in March 2020 until September.

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 OMA says, compounding the backlog is the fact that Ontario spends less on health care per capita than any other province in Canada except British Columbia, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. This is a situation that has been 30 years in the making, due to a decrease in per capita spending in the 1990s, flat spending between 2012 and 2016 and spending below the minimum required to keep pace with demand in other years. Ontario’s per capita healthcare spending is about 8 per cent lower than the average of other provinces, according to CIHI.

At a time when many hospitals are firing unvaccinated staff, the OMA says the province also needs more doctors, personal support workers and other healthcare professionals.

Nearly 200 University Health Network employees are expected to have their employment terminated after failing to comply with an Oct. 22 deadline to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The hospital says approximately 181 UHN employees had failed to provide proof of vaccination and were therefore not compliant with the hospital network’s policy, which was first announced back in August.

The Hospital for Sick Children placed 147 of its employees on unpaid leaves for failing to comply with a similar vaccine mandate.

Windsor Regional Hospital fired 57 employees who failed to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by their deadline. 140 others were placed on unpaid leave.

A handful of employees have been put on unpaid leave after not following the vaccination rules at Sault Area Hospital. The hospital would not release exact numbers. In North Bay, approximately 40 hospital workers aren’t in compliance with the new vaccination policy and “could progress to dismissal as early as this week” hospital officials said in early October.

Health Sciences North in Sudbury says 70 people who have not provided proof of vaccination yet could be fired. According to Timmins and District Hospital, six per cent of its employees have not yet been fully vaccinated and have until Oct. 29 to get both shots.

Ontario ranks seventh among Canadian provinces in the number of family doctors per 100,000 patients (2.3) and, if it were a country, would have one of the lowest doctor-to-population rankings among OECD countries (29 out of 33). The shortage is especially acute in northern and rural areas.

The OMA, which represents Ontario’s 43,000 physicians, has developed recommendations in five key areas to fix the gap in the healthcare system:

  • Reduce the backlog of services and reduce wait times
  • Expand mental health and addiction programs in the community
  • Improve and expand home care and other community care
  • Strengthen public health and pandemic preparedness
  • Give every patient a team of healthcare providers, and link them digitally

The OMA plan also addresses the unique healthcare challenges in northern Ontario. Ontario’s doctors are also calling for “immediate action on climate change to mitigate its severe consequences on human health and well-being”.

&nbspphoto credit: Alex E. Proimos The Stethoscope via photopin (license)

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