The OMA, representing Ontario doctors, says the health-care backlog created by the COVID-19 pandemic has grown to almost 22 million services, an increase of one million in just the past three months, according to an analysis by the Ontario Medical Association.
The drop in service delivery causing the backlog likely reflects the pause on non-emergency treatments and procedures required by the highly contagious Omicron variant at the start of 2022. In addition, more patients are starting to re-engage with the health-care system and many are showing up sicker and with more undiagnosed health needs.
“We know that health care is the top priority in the campaign for the June 2 election,” said OMA President Dr. Rose Zacharias. “Ontario’s doctors have a plan for fixing the problems that were exposed during the pandemic. We’re urging all parties to adopt the recommendations in Our Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care ,
The priorities are:
- Reduce wait times and the backlog of services
- Expand mental health and addiction services in the community
- Improve home care and other community care
- Strengthen public health and pandemic preparedness
- Give every patient a team of health-care providers and link them digitally
The pandemic backlog includes everything from routine checkups and childhood immunizations to diagnostic tests and surgeries – any health-care service that was delayed, deferred or cancelled because of COVID-19 as well as newly identified issues that now need treatment. Some individuals may be waiting for more than one service.
The most recent Ipsos survey for the OMA conducted in late April found that health care continues to be the most important issue for Ontarians, ahead of inflation and housing. Health care is ranked No. 1 or 2 by one-third of voters and the backlog and wait times are the top health-care issues.
The Ipsos survey also found that one-quarter of decided voters would consider voting for a different party if that party made their personal health-care priority a top promise. Those whose top pillar is mental health are more likely to consider changing their vote.
The OMA has rated each party’s political platform and public policy announcements based on whether they line up with OMA priorities, whether their commitments are costed and whether there is a clear implementation plan.
The ratings range from one stethoscope (a modest commitment to address the Prescription’s five priorities), two stethoscopes (a moderate commitment) and three stethoscopes (the most commitment). The NDP has earned 11 stethoscopes out of a possible 18, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals have 10 each and the Green Party has nine.