Ontario takes steps to reduce surgical backlog and improve health care

Ontario News & Comments – by Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP

The Ontario government is taking immediate steps to significantly expand the number and range of procedures done through community surgical and diagnostic centres. All procedures will continue to be publicly-funded, though the surgeries will take place in private facilities.

The government’s action will make it easier and faster for people to access publicly-funded surgeries and procedures they need by further leveraging community surgical and diagnostic centres. The move is expected to eliminate surgical backlogs and reduce wait times. It is also expected to result in relief for health care staff and resources at public hospitals.

In making the announcement last week, the Premier stated, “When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Our government is taking bold action to reduce wait times for surgeries, all while ensuring Ontarians use their OHIP card to get the care they need, never their credit card.”

Ontario has a three-step plan to better integrate and use state-of-the-art health facilities in communities.

Step One Cataracts:  Ontario is urgently tackling the existing backlog for cataract surgeries, which has one of the longest waits for procedures. New partnerships with community surgical and diagnostic centres in Ottawa, Windsor, and Kitchener-Waterloo will add 14,000 additional cataract surgeries performed each year.

Ontario is also investing more than $18 million in existing centres to cover care for thousands of patients, including more than 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans, 4,800 cataract surgeries, 900 other ophthalmic surgeries, 1,000 minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and 2,845 plastic surgeries such as hand soft tissue repair. Surgical wait lists are anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023, barring operational issues.

Step Two – MRIs, CTs, colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures: Ontario will expand the scope of community surgical and diagnostic centres to address MRI and CT imaging and colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures. To start later this year, these procedures will be non-urgent, low-risk and minimally invasive and, in addition to shortening wait times, will allow hospitals to