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A Struggling System

Doctors in PPE talking to each other

CMA report details the impact of pandemic on health care

A new report commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association found that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the health of Canadians is much broader than the effects of contracting the virus itself.

Delayed and missed health care may have contributed to more than 4,000 excess deaths not related to COVID-19 between August and December 2020, states the report prepared by Deloitte. At their peak in September 2020, the number of deaths not related to COVID-19 was 5 percent greater than the expected mortality rate for a normal year. This pattern is in line with the excess mortality observed in international jurisdictions during the pandemic.

“The backlog in hospital procedures is growing, and numerous forms of care have been delayed, cancelled or otherwise affected by the pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021,” states the report, entitled “A Struggling System: Understanding the health care impacts of the pandemic.”

The estimated backlog in Ontario is as follows:

  • 89,347 Pap Tests
  • 307,617 Mammograms
  • 297,299 Fecal Tests

Although cancer screening services gradually resumed beginning in May 2020, they had yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as of December 2020.

The report also quantifies the backlog in eight selected procedures. The number of days lost to perform procedures throughout the pandemic ranges from at least 46 days for breast cancer surgeries to at least 118 days for hip replacement surgeries.

“The demand for extra capacity poses a significant risk to the sustainability of the health care system at a time when health care workers are burned out, exhausted and demoralized, and the pressures on the system are being exacerbated by the increasing shortage of health human resources,” states the report.

Backlog Accumulated Due to COVID-19

(April 2020-June 2021) Provincial Average  

  • Breast Cancer Surgery 46 days
  • CABG 63 days
  • CT Scan 64 days
  • MRI Scan 69 days
  • Colectomy 72 days
  • Knee Replacement 104 days
  • Cataract Surgery 105 days
  • Hip Replacement 118 days