Analyzing health data is a frustrating experience

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Opinion



According to data from Manitoba Health’s Wait Time Information System, the number of Manitobans on waiting lists for diagnostic services has decreased slightly, but wait times for MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds increased.

Those wait times were not included in data released online Friday by the province’s Diagnosis and Surgical Recovery Task Force, after Health Minister Audrey Gordon promised the task force would provide a full update that day.

“After overcoming the fourth wave (of the COVID-19 pandemic), the second most important issue for our government is the backlog of diagnosis and surgical recovery,” Gordon said during Question Period Thursday. “That’s why we’ve established a Task Force on Diagnosis and Surgical Recovery, and that’s why tomorrow, during the update, Manitobans will hear about the great work done by the Surgical Diagnosis and Recovery Task Force. work.”

There was no update on Friday, at least not the expected one, where the minister and task force leader – Dr. Peter MacDonald – would provide Manitobans with detailed information on the backlog and answer questions about the plans to reduce them.

Instead, the task force released an incomplete document on Friday evening that did not include information on how long people waited for diagnostic and surgical services.

The task force reported that the number of people waiting for CT scans, ultrasounds and MRIs dropped between 12% and 16% from December to January. However, the number of people on a waiting list is not a measure of how long they have to wait for a procedure.

What the task force didn’t reveal is that wait times for these procedures have increased since last year, according to Manitoba Health figures updated Feb. 22.

The average wait time for an MRI in the province went from 19 weeks in December to 22 weeks in January. Wait times have increased at seven of nine locations across the province, including a significant jump at the Pan Am Clinic (where MacDonald works as director of innovation and research) from 18 to 26 weeks. This is the longest wait for Manitobans for an MRI since May 2021, when the average wait time was 24 weeks.

Wait times for CT scans fell from 17 to 19 weeks between December and January (the highest since July) and from 17 to 20 weeks for ultrasounds (the highest since August).

Wait times for bone density scans and myocardial perfusion tests (which show how blood travels to the heart muscle) also increased in January.

Diagnostic tests are widely used to diagnose disease and injury in patients and are often essential in establishing treatment plans. Long wait times can cause delays in processing.

Manitoba Health data shows that the number of diagnostic procedures performed has not increased since last year. The number of monthly MRI scans in 2021 ranged from around 7,500 to 8,000. In January, 7,724 scans were performed.

There were 19,978 CT scans performed in January, down from 21,251 in December – the lowest since February 2021. Additionally, the number of ultrasound exams fell to 16,040 in January from 17,075 in December.

Meanwhile, wait times for some surgeries, including hip and knee replacement, fell in January but were still higher than they were in mid-2021. The total number of hip and knee surgeries performed in January fell to 245 from 392 in December (well below the monthly average of 333 surgeries in 2021). The number of cataract operations also fell in January to 896, from 944 in December and below the monthly average of 1,132 in 2021.

None of this data was included in the task force’s update on Friday, and the Minister of Health or members of the task force did not make themselves available to answer questions about it.

It’s pure incompetence. Gordon said Thursday that the task force did not provide Manitobans with monthly updates (as promised in December) because they did not want to give “false hope” to the public by announcing something that did not contain “substantial information”.

Instead, she gave Manitobans false hope Thursday that substantial progress would be announced Friday. This was not the case.

Gordon then changed her excuse: she claimed on Friday, through a spokesperson, that she was limited in what she could announce, due to the publicity blackout that preceded the election partial March 22 in Fort Whyte – a ban that clearly does not apply to current announcements. government programs.

The sinking of the train continues.

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Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Journalist

Tom has covered Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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