Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says his government will provide at least $50 million to address the backlog in surgeries and other procedures caused by the pandemic.

Pallister made the announcement in a press conference on Wednesday. He says the funding will be part of this year's provincial budget.

“Protecting the health of Manitobans is a priority for our government, especially in the face of a global pandemic,” says Pallister. “COVID-19 has challenged our health-care system and created a pandemic pileup of delayed surgeries and procedures. We know that every delay represents someone who is suffering while they wait, which is why we’re making this major investment to address the surgical backlog and get Manitobans the care they need sooner.”

The province says that the new funding will reduce the wait times for surgeries and procedures delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "This will address wait times for priority procedures and services, as well as hip, knee and cataract procedures," a press release from the government says.Doctors Manitoba, which represents physicians, said the funding will help tackle surgical and diagnostic wait-lists.

“This is a very good start towards catching up on the thousands of patients who have had to wait for their procedure because of this pandemic,” the organization says in a statement.

On Twitter, NDP Health Critic Usoma Asagwara says the announcement ahead of the budget was "an attempt to distract." She says while there may be new funding, the Premier "does not have an actual plan to address surgery wait times, Minister of Health is absent and none of its (sic) his fault."

“Health care is the number one issue for Canadians and that has only been underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Pallister. “While we are making significant investments to address the issue of wait times here in Manitoba, we continue to call on the federal government to come to the table as a true, reliable funding partner on health care. Short-term promises are not enough to address the systemic, long-term problem of ever-increasing health-care wait times in this country.


With files from The Canadian Press