Ford government must act to reduce unacceptable surgical and test backlog

May 10, 2021

The Ontario government must act immediately to reduce the unacceptable surgical and diagnostic test backlog says Unifor.

“The Ford government failed to quickly enact measures to protect Ontarians from the spread of COVID-19, such as paid sick days and priority vaccination access for essential workers,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Now the cancellation of elective surgeries and redirection of hospital resources to deal with third wave patients will cause further suffering and claim additional lives due to skyrocketing surgical and test backlogs.”

The postponement of elective surgeries and non-emergency diagnostic procedures during the pandemic has created a massive backlog that will take 3.5 years and 3 years respectively to clear, according to a new report by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO).

“Allowing people to continue to suffer while awaiting surgery and negating the benefits of early diagnosis by delaying vital medical tests is unconscionable,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. “This report reflects not only the historical gap in health care funding in Ontario, but confirms that the government’s spending plan will make the backlog issue even worse, with the 2021 budget falling $700 million short of the $1.3 billion required.”

The FAO projects an elective surgery backlog of 419,200 procedures and diagnostic backlog of 2.5 million procedures by end of September 2021.

The province’s spending plan in budget 2021 calls for an average annual 0.5% decline in real per capita spending from 2019-20 to 2029-30, despite the FAO projecting that almost double that amount will be needed based on current program design and commitments. By 2030, the FAO estimates a cumulative funding shortfall of $61.9 billion.

“While there is no denying the strain that COVID-19 has put on healthcare the government cannot blame the pandemic alone for the projected surgical and testing delays,” said Dias. “This is the result of a chronically underfunded system and the only way to fix it is by investing now, not next budget, not during the next election campaign, but tomorrow.”