This Laval hospital is reducing surgery backlog with a new brief-stay unit

Laval's Cite-de-la-Santé opens a new surgical unit dedicated to patients with a 24- to 48-hour recovery stay. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC - image credit)
Laval's Cite-de-la-Santé opens a new surgical unit dedicated to patients with a 24- to 48-hour recovery stay. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC - image credit)

When J-F Gamelin's wife was told she had to have ovarian surgery after going to Laval's Cite-de-la-Santé's emergency unit Sunday, his mind immediately went to the long waiting lists caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and was concerned his wife could face delays.

But she was able to get to the operating room within 48 hours thanks to the CISSS Laval's new surgical unit dedicated to patients who need only 24 to 48 hours for in-hospital recovery. The unit is designed to help cut through the surgery waitlist.

"I think it's a very positive thing to see and witness firsthand: continuous improvement," said Gamelin, whose wife will need to rest for about two days. "I think that's what we want from our system."

In January, the hospital was able to create the new unit by taking 10 out of 32 beds from the same-day surgery unit and replacing them with armchairs, said the head of the unit, Pauline Arnaud. This helps clear up space since a lot of "bed time" consists of waiting for surgery.

Surgeon Patrick Montpetit said, after analyzing hospital data, staff realized they could operate on as many patients with 22 beds as they did with 32, while making space for patients with longer recovery times to reduce backlog.

Plans for the project started in 2020, said Arnaud. It was a bit of a challenge for the staff who had to adapt to more patients but ultimately the unit was well-received.

"It permitted us to operate on more people so the waitlists are going down," she said. "It's appreciated by the employees and people are happy to get treated."

With the success the unit has seen in treating more patients, Arnaud said the changes are here to stay.

Simon Nakonechny/CBC
Simon Nakonechny/CBC

Though the hospital had requested money from the provincial government to expand its services, bureaucracy is slow. The unit is costing the hospital about $2 million.

"The pandemic made us think outside the box," said Montpetit.

"We didn't have time to wait for money coming from the government. So, with a great collaboration between medical staff and the administration, we were able to ask 'What can we do?'"

But neither the Syndicat Des Infirmières Inhalothérapeutes Et Infirmiers Auxilières De Laval, a nurses union, nor the patients' committee say they were consulted about the project.

Pierre Lynch, president of the CISSS de Laval patients' committee, said he wasn't even aware the new unit existed. If it helps reduce backlog without interfering with day surgeries, "the committee has no problem with it," he said.

A spokesperson for the nurses' union said they were notified the unit would open last fall and have yet to receive complaints.

Since the January launch, the hospital has been talking with other CIUSSS in Quebec interested in the project.

"We're going to have some data about this in the near future to make sure our unit is working and we're really getting our list shorter," said Montpetit. "But right now we are very proud of the unit and we think it will work to reduce the list for these patients."