A new estimate by Doctors Manitoba shows the backlog of diagnostic tests and surgeries that built up during the pandemic has fallen since last month, but there are still more than 100,000 procedures on the waitlist.

Doctors Manitoba now believes there are between 100,000 and 130,000 backlogged surgical and diagnostic procedures, down from 167,000 last month.

"Waiting for a test or surgery is never easy," said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, president of Doctors Manitoba, in a news release. "Physicians are seeing patients facing longer and uncertain waits, often in pain or discomfort. Now that the backlog has peaked, we hope to see more surgeries and tests completed than ever before to get patients the care they need as soon as possible."

The doctors’ organization arrived at this new figure by using a comprehensive analysis of reports from physicians and health system leaders, wait lists and other data.

Meanwhile, chronic pain assessments in Winnipeg have been added to the estimates, with a pandemic backlog estimated between 910 and 1,410 patients who are now waiting between 30 and 40 months.

Past Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Kristjan Thompson said the group’s original approach looked back on how many procedures were missing during the pandemic. Now, they’ve updated their method.

"After two years, some of those missed procedures may no longer be required. Our new approach looks forward, using a more comprehensive analysis to estimate how much work is required to return the system to pre-pandemic performance,” he said.

Doctors Manitoba also reviewed progress on three recommendations it presented a year ago, and added a new recommendation as well.

The province already answered Doctors Manitoba’s call to create a task force to tackle the backlog. The group notes the province is still in the progress of providing monthly updates, including the size of the backlog. Additionally, the province has still not set a target date to clear the backlog.

Doctors Manitoba’s new recommendation is to ensure the health system not only catches up, but also keeps up with a growing population and advances in medical practices through annual increases in surgery and diagnostic volumes when needed.

"Now that most surgical and diagnostic facilities are back to pre-pandemic capacity, the Task Force can direct their attention to adding even more capacity, so the health system can catch up and keep up with the need for surgeries and testing in our province,” Dr. Thompson said.

When asked for comment about the new report, a government spokesperson said its Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force (DSRTF) continues to work with Doctors Manitoba to address the backlog.

“The DSRTF will be providing an update along with Doctors Manitoba tomorrow, June 29,” the spokesperson said.