Patient prepared for operation at Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver, 2016. The province is expanding private contracted surgeries to catch up on cancelled procedures due to COVID-19. (The Canadian Press)

COVID-19: B.C. begins calling back scheduled surgery patients

30,000 procedures cancelled, many for cancer, heart treatment

The B.C. health ministry has started contacting thousands of scheduled surgery patients whose procedures have been delayed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to begin a catch-up program expected to extend into the next two years.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced May 7 that with continued low hospital demand to admit COVID-19-infected patients, B.C.’s regional health authorities are reaching out to surgery candidates over the next week to see if they are willing to proceed with their delayed surgery under new protocols to screen for novel coronavirus infection.

In addition to 30,000 cancelled and postponed procedures, the health ministry estimates that without COVID-19 precautions that halted all but urgent surgeries, there would have been another 24,000 patients added to wait lists since pandemic measures were implemented March 17. Surgeons stopped meeting with most patients and referring them since that time.

Premier John Horgan said many patients will be apprehensive about returning to the health care system, despite living in pain. “Today we start relieving that pain,” Horgan said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C.’s reduction in community cases means hospitals and surgical centres can change a protocol that assumed everyone coming in for surgery may be infected. She said surgical patients will be screened for symptoms twice, the second time just before they come in for the procedure.

“Now that we have flattened our curve here in B.C., we need to take a different approach to this,” Henry said. “We can now safely assume that most patients do not have COVID-19.”

Surgical capacity is to be ramped up to pre-pandemic levels over four weeks, starting May 18 when scheduled surgeries are to resume, and private contracted facilities will be used to maximum capacity by the end of May. Additional screening for COVID-19 will be implemented, but with reduced positive tests in recent weeks, officials say the vast majority of scheduled surgery patients will not require additional infection measures in hospital.

RELATED: B.C. prepares to restart retail, medical services in May

RELATED: B.C. residents can increase their ‘pandemic bubbles’

Dix estimates that the additional capacity, including operating room training of nurses and added surgeons and anestheologists, will cost an additional $250 million in the first year. Catching up is expected to take up to two years, including patients with cancer and heart conditions, with surgical facilities extending hours and into weekends as surgical teams are added.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trial date set in Castlegar RCMP shooting death

Constable Jason Tait has elected a jury trial.

Drive-in theatre proposed for Grand Forks

City councillors will vote next month on whether to permit the use of the private property

RDCK recycling depots to join RecycleBC program

Some depots open, others close, and different materials will be accepted

Morning start: This famous singer is from the West Kootenays

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Tuesday, May 26

West Kootenay SAR crews rescue injured mountain biker near Rossland

Crews were called in to help after the biker seriously injured himself at around noon Saturday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Most Read