Surgical backlog caused by COVID-19 could take a year and a half to clear

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A new study suggests it could take a year and a half to catch up on surgeries in Ontario that were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modeling data published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that even with a 10 percent increase in surgical capacity, or 50 percent of operating rooms running an extra day each week, it would take 84 weeks to clear the backlog.

Researchers found that in April 2020, there were 38% fewer cancer surgeries, 42% fewer cardiac surgeries, 94% fewer pediatric surgeries and 96% fewer miscellaneous adult surgeries compared to the previous April.

Between March 15 and June 13, they found a backlog of 148,364 surgeries.

In mid-March, the Ministry of Health directed hospitals to cancel elective surgeries to prepare for more COVID-19 patients. The directive was lifted at the end of May.

"To effectively manage this impact on more than 140 000 patients, health systems and surgical leaders cannot get back to business as usual, but rather must employ innovative system-based solutions to provide patients with timely surgical care and prepare for future COVID-19 waves," the authors say.