Horwath calls for investment to urgently perform delayed surgeries

Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling for provincial funding and an urgent action plan to help people quickly get the procedures and surgeries they need, hundreds of thousands of which have been delayed by COVID-19.

“Thousands of people are coping with pain and worry while they wait for procedures like cancer scans, hip replacements and even heart surgeries,” said Horwath. “If we don’t take urgent steps to clear the diagnostic and surgical backlog, people will suffer for longer and their condition may get worse.”

The Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) confirmed that it will take $1.3 billion to tackle the province-wide surgical backlog — and even at that level of funding, it will take more than three years. Ford’s budget shortchanges surgeries by about $700 million, forcing people to wait so much longer.

In February, the London Free Press reported that the backlog of surgeries at London Health Sciences Centre alone had already reached 4,500, before the third wave of the pandemic hit. Horwath was joined in London by NDP MPPs Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe), Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) and Peggy Sattler (London West) on Wednesday, who all agreed that Londoners are suffering from surgery wait times that were bad before the pandemic after years of government funding freezes by the Liberals and Conservatives both — and are now horrifyingly long.

“Doug Ford doesn’t want to spend the money to get people surgeries sooner, and I completely disagree with his choice,” said Horwath. “I think a strategy to get people their surgery quicker should be a top priority for Ontario.

“Let’s put the funding and the plan in place, so we can start making those calls to people at home in agony to say ‘your turn is here. Let’s get you well again’.”

By the end of September 2021, the backlog of delayed surgeries will balloon to 419,000, and the diagnostic backlog will soar to nearly 2.5 million procedures, according to the FAO. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) estimates that when completely skipped procedures are included, the backlog soars to 15.9 million surgeries, diagnostic exams, screenings and other medical procedures. The top skipped or delayed procedures include MRIs, knee and hip replacements and coronary bypass surgeries, according to the OMA.

In contrast, British Columbia cleared 95 per cent of its own backlog by March 2021 by developing and fully funding a plan to urgently tackle delayed surgeries and procedures.

Andrea Horwath