B.C. aims to reduce backlog of surgeries within 22 months

·1 min read

VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister says 90 per cent of patients who had their surgery postponed during the first wave of the pandemic have now had their procedures.

Adrian Dix says operating-room hours were added to clear a backlog of surgeries that were cancelled in mid-March to ensure beds were saved for patients with COVID-19.

Non-urgent surgeries resumed two months later, and Dix says more surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses have been hired.

The minister says significantly more surgeries were done over the holiday period compared with the previous year, but outbreaks of COVID-19 at hospitals in North Vancouver, Prince George and Burnaby reduced the number of surgeries that could be performed.

He says by the third week of November, all health authorities had called more than 111,000 patients on wait-lists to ask if they were ready to reschedule their surgeries.

Dix says COVID-19 vaccinations are a priority in reducing outbreaks, but the challenge is getting more doses as the province expects to immunize about 10 per cent of the population by March.

"I wish it were 40 per cent, but it's 10 per cent."

Michael Marchbank, former CEO of Fraser Health and consultant to the Health Ministry, said the backlog could be cleared within 22 months.

"What we have seen so far includes extending days in 11 operating rooms, adding weekends in four operating rooms, opening 23 new or unused operating rooms, maximizing our capacity in our non-contracted sites and achieving a 37 per cent reduction in summer slowdowns," he says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press