Ontario Has Nearly 20 Million Health Care Services Backlogged Due To The COVID-19 Pandemic

The Ontario Medical Association says it could take years to clear up.

Ontario Has Nearly 20 Million Health Care Services Backlogged Due To The COVID-19 Pandemic
Toronto Associate Editor

A new report from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) reveals the COVID-19 pandemic created a massive backlog of about 20 million health care services in the province, including treatments, surgeries, doctors' visits and diagnostic tests.

On Tuesday, October 26, the OMA released an updated analysis of the current backlog in the province, which is all based on OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) data from when the pandemic began in March 2020 up until September 2021.

It added that even if doctors and other health care professionals work longer hours and other resources like hospital bed for sale and operating rooms were added, it could take years to clear up the huge backlog.

"It's in addition to pre-pandemic wait times that were well above recommended timelines for many procedures," health officials wrote. "And it doesn't address the other cracks in the health-care 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 are now showing up sicker and requiring more aggressive treatment."

If Ontario's doctors worked 120% more than they did before the pandemic started, the OMA predicts that it will take 30 months for them to catch up on knee replacements, 25 months for cataract surgeries, 19 months for hip replacements, 14 months for heart bypass surgeries and 11 months for MRIs.

The Ontario Medical Association's Recommendations

The OMA put out five recommendations in key areas to bridge this gap in the province's health care system:

  1. Cut the backlog of services as well as wait times
  2. Grow mental health and addiction programs in communities
  3. Grow and improve community care services like home care
  4. Strengthen Ontario's public health and pandemic preparedness
  5. Provide each patient with a team of health care providers and link them digitally

The OMA also said that Ontario needs more personal support workers, doctors, and other health care professionals since many of them are retiring or leaving their careers "because of burnout exacerbated by working on the front lines of the pandemic."

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor