Scheduled surgeries progressing faster than anticipated
B.C. has made better progress than expected since it resumed surgeries in mid-May.
Just over half of patients whose surgeries were postponed due to COVID-19 underwent their procedures by June 25, according to the Ministry of Health’s first progress report on the backlog.
More than 32,400 surgeries were cancelled between March and May as B.C. hospitals braced for a potential wave of Covid cases. As of the end of June, about 93,000 people were awaiting surgeries.
“Given the period we were starting from, [that’s an] extraordinary accomplishment,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said of the province’s progress.
Health authorities have contacted more than 62,000 people to see if they are “ready and willing” to have their surgery rescheduled. 2,387 patients who have waited more than twice the recommended period for their procedure will get top priority.
Nearly 48,000 people have said yes while 1,550 indicated they would rather not undergo surgery during the pandemic — those patients will be referred to a surgeon for followup.
The ministry was not able to say how many patients may have died while waiting for surgery or whose condition deteriorated to a point where surgery is no longer an option. However, 2,870 patients have not been rescheduled due to “non-COVID-19 reasons.”
Since the surgical restart began, B.C.’s operating capacity is up to 91 per cent of what it was during the same period last year, with more urgent surgeries performed between mid-May and the end of June than were done during the same window in 2019.
Backlog could be cleared in 15 months, but backup plans are on deck
In May, Dix said the province was hoping to address the surgical backlog within two years. At the time, he said that would be “ambitious” and “extremely vulnerable” to “a whole range of challenges.”
The two-year timeline was based on an assumption that surgeries completed during the pandemic would take 30 per cent longer. But so far, procedures are taking just 26 per cent longer — a trend that could eliminate the backlog in 15 months if it continues and the province is able to recruit required personnel.
Surgical staff are being asked to forgo summer vacation and work on weekends to help keep the plan on track.
If B.C. sees a second wave of Covid, the province projects a 10 per cent reduction in urgent surgical capacity that could last for half a year — delaying the timeline to address the backlog by a further three months.
Dix said $815,000 has been put toward recruiting needed health-care professionals since May.
To date, B.C. has netted 29 new anesthetists, 177 nurses with operating room experience and 35 medical technicians as a result of its recruitment efforts.
The province has also hired 760 recently graduated registered nurses — in May, Dix said the province is hoping to hire every nurse who graduates in the province this year.