The global pandemic has disrupted all kinds of elective procedures, even impacting patients in line for routine endoscopies as hospitals and treatment centers have made time and space for COVID-19 cases.
Recent numbers show nearly 35,000 patients in Scotland waiting for an endoscopy, according to Public Health Scotland in a BBC News Post. That’s almost 70 percent higher than the average before the pandemic.
About 4,000 patients have been waiting more than a year for an endoscopy, compared with 655 a year ago.
In order to address the backlog, the Scottish government pledged £70m (about $92.5 million) for faster diagnosis of cancers and other illnesses related to the digestive system, bladder and prostrate. The goal is to provide 20,000 more procedures by March 2023.
The country’s wait time standards call for no longer than a six-week wait for a variety of endoscopy tests including colonoscopies, CTs and MRI scans.
The BBC reported:
Even as Scotland works through its endoscopy backlog, the country is seeing COVID-19 cases rising again since the first case of the Omicron variant was identified there at the end of November.
In the U.K., a recent survey of endoscopy clinicians, conducted by the global clinical network SERMO on behalf of Fujifilm, found that 79 percent of respondents said COVID-19 has significantly increased waiting times in endoscopy. Almost three out of four (74 percent) expressed fear of a “ticking time bomb” of cancer patients waiting for diagnosis and treatment as a result of COVID-19.
Canada is another country seeing extended wait times, specifically in gastrointestinal endoscopy. Excessive wait times “have been and continue to be a major issue in the Canadian healthcare sector,” according to research by Dr. Derek Yu and others published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. “Demand for healthcare services continues to increase as the Ontario population ages, diagnostic tests improve and advances in technology make more conditions treatable.”
Previous research found wide discrepancies in wait times across Canada.
Digestive diseases are a major economic burden and account for 15 percent of the total direct economic Canadian healthcare costs — surpassing costs for mental, cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous system diseases, according to the research.
In the U.S., traffic at endoscopy centers had returned to pre-pandemic levels by June, without the feared surges or extended wait times, according to a recent story in Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News.
“If any centers are feeling overwhelmed, it’s more because of a lack of staff as opposed to too many patients,” Amiee Mingus, the vice president of critical operations for PE GI, told the publication.