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Province catching up on surgeries delayed due to pandemic

Health Minister Adrian Dix
Health Minister Adrian Dix

As of Nov. 22 last year, 90 per cent of patients who had their surgery postponed during the first wave of COVID-19 were able to have their surgery completed, according to the provincial government.

“The surgical renewal commitment to patients is a massive and necessary undertaking to address postponed surgeries and meet the growing demand for surgery within British Columbia,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, in a news release. “Our sixth monthly report tells a remarkable story of achievement in the number of patients called, surgeries delivered, operating room hours extended, waitlists reduced, and staff hired and trained.”

On March 16, 2020, non-urgent scheduled surgeries were postponed to ensure hospitals had the capacity for COVID-19 patients. On May 7, the surgical renewal plan was launched. Non-urgent scheduled surgeries resumed on May 18. The first month of surgical renewal was spent adapting to new practices and increasing surgeries until they returned to pre-COVID-19 volumes in mid-June. Those early weeks paved the way for the gains that have occurred since then. The following has been achieved in the past six months:

  • On Nov. 22, 2020, all health authorities completed their calls to 111,584 patients who were on waitlists before May 7, to ask them if they were ready to reschedule their surgery.
  • Between May 18 and Nov. 12, 163,696 patients received their surgery, including 90 per cent of the patients who had a surgery postponed in the first wave of COVID-19.
  • An additional 7,979 hours of operating room time was added, compared to the same timeframe last year.
  • With a focus on urgent and long-waiting surgeries, 996 more urgent scheduled surgeries and 6,299 more surgeries for patients waiting longer than two times their target wait were performed.
  • Through efforts in calling patients and performing more surgeries, waitlists have been reduced.
  • The total waitlist has been reduced by six per cent since March 31, 2020, 12 per cent since it peaked on May 28 at 100,297.
  • * The urgent waitlist has been reduced by nine per cent since March 31, 2020, 11 per cent since the peak.
  • * The non-urgent waitlist has been reduced by five per cent since March 31, 2020, 12 per cent since the peak.

Since April 1, the following have been hired:

  • 33 surgeons;
  • 32 anesthesiologists;
  • three general-practice anesthetists;
  • 305 perioperative registered nurses;
  • 38 perioperative licensed practical nurses;
  • 171 post-anesthetic recovery registered nurses; and
  • 173 medical device reprocessing technicians.
  • Since April 1, 172 surgical specialty nurses have started their training and 86 have completed their programs.

“We launched B.C.’s commitment to surgical renewal in May. Since then, learning and adaptation have occurred each step of the way. These are significant achievements and our work will continue to build on this progress in the winter-to-spring period,” Dix said.

All six progress reports are available, detailing the month-over-month progress and comparing it to the same timeframe last year. They also show how the system is adapting to the challenge that COVID-19 presented in the spring, and how learning, innovation and patients’ needs are driving progress.

“Everyone involved in delivering surgeries counts on each of us to stop the spread to keep our hospitals safe and our surgeries possible. Our progress, so far, in fighting COVID-19 and the remarkable achievements in our surgical renewal commitment make it clear: In a pandemic, each of us has an essential role in health care,” Dix said.

The timeline for recovery of all postponed surgeries is expected to be 15 to 22 months. In 2020-21, government has allocated $187.5 million in the first year to support efforts for surgical renewal.

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