Windsor Regional Hospital pleads with province for more beds to combat surgical backlog

·3 min read
Windsor Regional Hospital is worried a surgical backlog will continue in the region unless the hospital is provided with more bed capacity, and officials are asking the province for more help.  (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Regional Hospital is worried a surgical backlog will continue in the region unless the hospital is provided with more bed capacity, and officials are asking the province for more help. (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)

Windsor Regional Hospital says it needs help from the province to alleviate a backlog of thousands of surgeries.

About 4,000 people are waiting for operations at the hospital, which the hospital says is lower than pre-pandemic levels. In November 2019, 6,370 people were awaiting surgeries, but the hospital says current operating capacity still hasn't recovered from the pandemic.

"Unfortunately, we still continue to struggle with the backlog, and specifically a bottleneck right now when it comes to in-patient beds," said Dr. Wassim Saad, chief of staff at Windsor Regional Hospital.

"Because obviously if you don't have an in-patient bed for a patient to go to after they're operated on, then you're not able to bring them in for the operation that they need."

CBC News spoke to Brian Gagnon who was waiting in the parking lot last Friday while his wife underwent an operation on her intestines at the Ouellette campus.

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

He said his wife waited more than 10 hours to get into a room before the surgery,

"They weren't really sure when I was gonna be able to see her because there wasn't a bed available for her to recover in," said Gagnon.

"Honestly, I have no idea where she's at right now. It's been a couple of hours since I've been out here, outside, just waiting on a phone call, basically, to let me know when I can come in and go up and see her."

The hospital said it has taken steps to try to reduce the backlog, including hiring more staff which Saad said is not an issue currently. It's also added a total of 53 additional beds, in part because of provincial funding, which the hospital said they hope will be a permanent funding model.

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

But bed capacity is still at 100 per cent at both hospital campuses.

"It's not a staffing shortage. It's not a nursing shortage. It's a bed shortage. We need the funded beds in order to be able to put those patients in a bed after surgery," said Saad.

"We have not heard yet from the province but we have made requests to them. We are obviously grateful for the funding they have provided for the extra beds they have provided for us, but it's not enough we certainly need more."

Saad said the hospital cannot make any headway on reducing the wait list for operations.

"Even if no further surgeries come in, in the foreseeable future, just to clear this backlog could take anywhere from 18 to 24 months," he said.

"Of course, we know that patients will continually require surgery on an ongoing basis, but right now, we're holding steady and barely treading water."

Saad said there is also a national shortage of anesthesiologists contributing to the problem, but that the hospital has been aggressively recruiting these doctors and anticipates having four hired for the fall.

The hospital stresses that the backlog does not affect emergency or cancer surgeries.

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