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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Port Hardy Mounties help First Nation chief build smokehouse

‘We have great maya’xala for all the community members, in each of the communities…’

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

Access to remote Side Bay beach up in the bureaucratic air

Roads to the pristine north west coast Vancouver Island beach at risk of being deactivated

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

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

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Most Read