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

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

COVID-19 minimizes Okanagan Regional Library budget increase

Library adapts to pandemic fiscal disruptions

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

Conservative opposition critic tours through Kootenay riding on listening tour

Pierre Poilievre, the Tory finance critic, gathering local feedback on pandemic supports, recovery issues

Liam’s Lowdown: Food is everywhere

Turn your garden scraps into tasty treats

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Stranger in truck grabs boy walking home from school in Kelowna

The 11-year-old boy escaped the incident, RCMP are investigating

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read