COVID-19: B.C. hospitals to resume regular surgical operations by June 7

As the province braced for a surge in COVID cases, nine hospitals postponed non-urgent surgeries. As of May 23, 2,153 patients are still waiting for their procedures.

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B.C. hospitals that diverted surgical beds and resources to cope with a third wave of COVID-19 will be resuming regular operations by June 7, and patients who had their surgeries cancelled can expect those procedures to be rescheduled soon, said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

In late April, as the province braced for a surge in COVID cases, nine hospitals in the Lower Mainland postponed non-urgent surgeries. As of May 23, 2,153 patients are waiting for their procedures to get rescheduled.

“I know this causes tremendous anxieties,” said Dix during a news conference on Thursday. “We know each one of these surgeries are important and we are tracking each one of them.”

To patients who got a dreaded call from health authorities in April and May cancelling their surgeries, Dix had a hopeful message: “We will be calling you again this time to book your surgery.”

The province launched a surgical renewal plan last year to clear a massive backlog of cancelled surgeries from COVID’s first wave.

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As of March 31, it had completed 97 per cent of surgeries for the 15,154 patients whose surgeries were cancelled during the first wave and who still wanted surgical treatment, adding more operating room hours and hiring more surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists.

Since April 2020 B.C. has hired 1,459 surgical staff. Another 274 surgical specialty nurses have completed their programs, while 391 started their training.

Between last June — when all health authorities returned to regular operations after the first wave — and March 31 this year, B.C. completed 8,547 more surgeries than the same time period the previous year, and added close to 22,000 hours of operating room time across all health authorities, said the health ministry.

The total wait list size has dropped 13 per cent to 81,940 compared to March 31, 2020.

Plans to return the nine Lower Mainland hospitals to normal surgical operations are underway. By June 7, all nine will be resuming surgeries again, said Dix. “Last year it took us four weeks to fully resume surgeries. This year, it will take us three weeks.”

In Fraser Health, Burnaby Hospital returned to normal operations by May 25. Royal Columbian Hospital’s return is next, slated for Monday, while Abbotsford Regional and Surrey Memorial hospitals will be back to normal by June 7.

In Vancouver Coastal, St. Paul’s Hospital is expected to return to full surgical operations by Monday, while the rest — Lions Gate, Richmond, UBC, and  Vancouver General hospitals — will have their surgical wards back online again in a week and a half.

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Meanwhile, B.C. continues to see its COVID figures continue on a downward trend.

On Thursday, 378 new cases were reported in the province, significantly less than the 1,000-plus cases typical about a month ago.

Out of the 3,543 active cases in B.C., 286 patients are hospitalized, down from a third-wave high of 511. Out of the hospitalized cases, 88 are in critical care, down from a recent high of 183.

Seven more people have succumbed to the virus, bringing B.C.’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 1,690. The people that died were one person in their 60’s, three in their 70’s and three in people over 80.

B.C. hit another immunization milestone Thursday, with more than three million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered into people’s arms, something Dix called an “extraordinary achievement of public health.” Out of these, 156,730 were second doses.

Dix also offered figures that gave a glimpse on who is vaccinating British Columbians at the health authority-run clinics.

In Vancouver Coastal Health, 51 per cent of immunizers are nurses, 29 per cent are physicians, with the rest comprised of pharmacists, medical students, nursing students, and other professions. In Fraser Health, 43 per cent of immunizers are nurses, 22 per cent are physicians, and 16 per cent are firefighters.

chchan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/cherylchan


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