Head trauma is not too uncommon for a few, such was the case for me. A consultation over the phone, then a doctor’s visit resulted in an appointment for a brain scan around the middle of 2020. The recovery process seemed to go smoothly, up until I got a call that my next brain scan was cancelled due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. So, after six months, as restrictions eased and cases dropped, in early 2021 I booked another appointment only for it to once again be cancelled due to COVID-19.
To this day, I have not gotten the scan, but it raises the question of just how many others found it to be a struggle to get the timely care they need. These postponed bookings have not vanished, rather they have accumulated over the years. How will appointment, procedure, and surgery backlogs be handled by Ontario’s next government?
Many are not alone … in a bad way
A study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information found there to have been approximately 600,000 fewer surgeries in Canada since the pandemic. The study suggests that on average, surgeries decreased by 35,000 each month in 2021. Backlogs did begin to clear slightly in the summer of 2020 but took a sharp decline in the spring when cases and hospitalizations surged in Ontario.
As of now, the Ontario Medical Association shares that there have been approximately 22 million medical services that accumulated during the pandemic, and this will only rise if left unchecked.
Anthony Castro, a network administrator in Scarborough, is a kidney-transplant patient who is grateful to have not experienced disruptions in his multitude of appointments.
“I do lots of follow-ups on blood work, ultrasounds, and bone density tests,” Castro said from inside his home’s garage.
“Missing them or having them stop can potentially stop my organs from functioning completely.”
Castro sympathizes with those affected by the backlogs. He believes that the current government is not investing enough in health care but rather on lesser urgent matters. He shares that he finds himself to be fortunate to be on the priority list for care since he’s at risk if an appointment is missed.
City News shared the opinion of Dr. Rose Zacharias, the president of the Ontario Medical Association.
“If even right now we stop the clock and caught up on all the knee replacement surgeries that are currently in the cue, it would take us 38 months to catch up,” said Zaharias.
How do some parties care about health care?
Ontario Liberals have pledged to immediately invest $6 billion to specifically clear surgical backlogs and waitlists explicitly.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Doug Ford stated in the pre-election budget for April that they will implement $3.3 billion into hospitals for the years 2022 and 2023. More specifically for delayed surgeries, $300 million will be additionally used to clear the backlog.
The Green Party aims to increase baseline operating funding for hospitals by a minimum of 5 per cent and further work with the federal government to reduce the backlog.
Veronica Javier, the NDP candidate for Scarborough-Guildwood in the 2022 provincial election, said backlogs have been an overlooked issue even before the pandemic due to the cuts from the health care system. Javier mentions that Doug Ford’s introduction of Bill 124, which the NDP aims to repeal, provided limited benefits to only a specific group of health care workers rather than many more that needed it.
“We recognize and aim to build a safe infrastructure for these workers and also a fair wage that is deserving of the hard work they have been doing,” she said.
“We don’t want you [youth] to wait for the situation to happen to know whether or not you have support.”
Javier emphasizes that whether or not one is young or old, the NDP’s immense support for health care will not only aim to keep your health logs punctuated and secured but also keep you preventative from illnesses occurring in the first place.
“It begins by rebuilding a system that was broken in the pandemic,” Javier added.
What you can change
Hallway medicine has been a phenomenon that has carried over the years but only spiked more since the pandemic. The term comes from the type of treatment patients are given in often unconventional areas, such as hallways, when there are more admissions than rooms for patients. The sight can be dreadful, detrimental to one’s health, and seem quite unethical.
Jarrad Marthaller, a volunteer and coordinator for Javier’s campaign, shares that hallway medicine and additional backlogs have slowly been becoming a federal issue, from a provincial, due to previous cuts from Liberals and Conservatives on health care already.
“Where Liberals walk, Conservatives run,” Marthaller said.
He claims that NDP is and will continue to expand OHIP, dental plans, mental care, and pharma care in collaboration with the federal government.
As votes are key to change, reach out to each party’s campaign office and ask them any questions you may have on this issue.