CALGARY -- A new study has found hundreds of thousands of surgeries and procedures were postponed in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic., a public policy think tank, released freedom of information responses on Thursday showing there were 205,549 surgery postponements in nine Canadian provinces between March and June 2020.  

The Ontario Government indicated it had “no records” on the subject, but data from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) estimated there were 148,364 postponed surgeries in that province. 

That brings the national total to 353,913. president Colin Craig says this new data should encourage governments to be more transparent about patients suffering due to postponed surgeries and procedures.

“We know some patients have died from surgical delays, but do we really know the extent of the problem?” Craig said.

“When COVID emerged, governments postponed hundreds of thousands of non-COVID surgeries, procedures and consultations with specialists. Not only has that increased waiting lists, it has caused tremendous patient suffering sometimes even resulting in death.” 

The following is a list of surgery postponements by province: 

  • B.C.:  24, 287;
  • Alberta: 16, 893;
  • Saskatchewan: 23, 209
  • Manitoba: 8,391;
  • Ontario: 148,364 (estimated);
  • Quebec: 70,467;
  • New Brunswick: 1,562;
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 23,867;
  • Nova Scotia: 35,753, and;
  • P.E.I.: 1,120.


Although his surgery may not be considered ‘urgent’, Lorne Drabinsky says his quality of life is quickly deteriorating as he waits for a hip replacement surgery.

The 81-year-old has had his operation rescheduled four times over the past two years and further delayed as a result of the pandemic.

“I have been suffering quite badly and it’s very difficult to bend over so I’m having a lot of problems just to stand upright,” he said.

“I hope to recover as quickly as I can so I can skate again my two hockey player grandsons Aiden and Matthew."

Drabinsky adds that he will finally get his surgery in two weeks, but his lifestyle has changed drastically as he continues to wait and struggle to complete simple tasks like putting on his socks or tying his shoes.


Alberta is still dealing with surgery backlogs, including postponements in the Edmonton area last fall where upwards of 60 per cent of surgeries were reportedly delayed.

As a result, Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the province is continuing to work with Alberta Health Services with the goal of being able to do 50 per cent more surgeries once the pandemic is over.

“It’s a multi-pronged approach to be able to make sure that AHS, those operating rooms as well as our charter surgical facilities are getting more volume in this fiscal year as well as the next fiscal year,” Shandro said.

“We will be getting AHS and our chartered surgical facilities to doing 150 per cent of our surgical capacity that it was doing before COVID.”

The province announced last year it was investing $100 million towards operating rooms at five designated hospitals.

Shandro adds that health officials are continuing to use innovative way to increase surgical capacity during the pandemic.


An earlier version of this story indicated the data covered from the start of the pandemic until March 2021. In fact, the data covered from March to June 2020.