An increasing demand on emergency departments, growing hospital admissions and staffing shortages related to COVID-19 have resulted in the postponement of dozens of surgeries and medical procedures in Nova Scotia.
The provincial health authority said Wednesday in a news release that only urgent and emergent surgeries, including time-sensitive cancer surgeries, are continuing at this time. Ambulatory care clinics and procedures will focus on urgent needs only.
Diagnostic imaging and laboratory services are continuing and will not be affected at this time, according to the release.
Patients will be contacted directly if their procedures or appointments are delayed.
Nova Scotia Health said approximately 600 staff and physicians were off work because of COVID-19 infections or because they were identified as a close contact of a positive case.
The health authority also said it is seeing higher than usual visits to emergency rooms and a higher demand for hospital beds.
Reduced staffing levels
Nova Scotia Health said many hospitals in-patient units are operating with reduced staffing levels.
It said there are approximately 355 hospital beds in the province occupied by patients who are awaiting placement in a long-term care facility or housing through the Department of Community Services.
Approximately 120 scheduled surgeries and 30 endoscopy or gastroenterology procedures were postponed last week due to these challenges, the news release said.
Outpatient rehabilitation services were also temporarily reduced in the central zone last week.
More surgeries were cancelled this week, and effective Wednesday, additional service reductions were announced so hospital staff can focus on maintaining in-patient, intensive care unit and emergency care.
Nova Scotia Health said it also anticipates longer waits in the emergency department over the next few weeks because of increasing COVID-19 cases.
Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should still go to the emergency department, Nova Scotia Health said.
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