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

Haida Gwaii libraries launch new ‘takeout’ curbside pickup service

As of June 5, cardholders can once again access physical copies of books, DVDs and more

Blacktail Haida Gwaii working to reopen with new covered patio

Chef-owner Edi Szasz hopes to reopen on June 25, the one-year anniversary of the restaurant

Skidegate daycare staff recognized for creative care during COVID-19

Staff have been using social media to share isolation activities, read stories and sing songs

Village of Queen Charlotte approves business facade improvement grants

Applications from Gather, dental clinic, A Level Up approved, leaving about $14,000 up for grabs

Recycling services in Queen Charlotte, Port Clements expanding next week

Residential plastics will be accepted again, but most residential transfer stations remain closed

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

‘Great Regional Air Hug’ being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Most Read