COVID-19 Surgical Backlog May Take 84 Weeks to Clear: Study

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Between March 15 and June 13, Ontario hospitals had a backlog of 148,364 procedures

A new study suggests it could take more than a year and a half to clear the backlog of surgeries in Ontario hospitals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.A modeling study published today in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association says the estimated time to rule out postponed surgeries due to the pandemic is 84 weeks, with a goal of 717 surgeries per week.

The provincial government has ordered hospitals in Ontario to cancel elective surgeries and other activities deemed non-urgent in mid-March to prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.

This directive was lifted at the end of May and hospitals have gradually resumed these surgeries.

The study indicates that between March 15 and June 13, hospitals in Ontario accumulated a backlog of 148,364 procedures.

According to its authors, data will play an important role in health planning in the future, and the modeling framework can be adapted for other jurisdictions.

“The magnitude of the COVID-19 surgical backlog raises important implications for planning for the recovery phase and for possible second waves of the pandemic in Ontario,” study co-author Dr. Jonathan Irish, a surgeon at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, said in a statement.

Researchers say healthcare systems “can’t go back to business as usual” if they are to manage the impact on patients, and must find innovative solutions to prepare for future waves of the novel coronavirus.

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