Ontario’s surgical backlog will take 3.5 years to clear: Fiscal watchdog

Surgery backlog expected to top 400,000 by end of September

Postponed surgeries will reach 419,200 by the end of September, according to Ontario’s fiscal watchdog, and clearing the backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic will take approximately three and a half years.

The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) estimates the cost to government coffers to clear the backlog will be $1.3 billion and notes the province has only allocated $610 million in its latest budget to address the issue.

The FAO said these projections are based on the assumption hospitals will be able to operate at 11 per cent above pre-pandemic volumes in the coming years.

The watchdog added the province will have a $61.9 billion spending shortfall in the health-care sector over the next nine years, and if the province intends to reach its health sector spending targets, then it will need to introduce new spending-restraint measures.

The province directed hospitals in southern Ontario to cancel non-emergency procedures in early April, and the order was extended to the north a few weeks later.