Surgical backlog to be cleared by end of 2021, health minister says
B.C. has made “extraordinary progress” in addressing its surgical backlog since restarting non-urgent procedures in mid-May, according to Health Minister Adrian Dix.
During the two-month surgical shut-down — when only urgent and emergency procedures went ahead — a total of 54,000 surgeries were either postponed, unscheduled or not referred to a waitlist.
As of last week, just under 102,600 surgeries had been completed since full surgical services resumed, according to Dix.
“All health authorities are projected to be caught up on surgeries lost to COVID-19 by the end of next year,” he told reporters — starting with Vancouver Island Health in February 2021; Fraser Health is expected to be the last health authority to catch up by December 2021.
The backlog is clearing more quickly than the ministry anticipated — in May, Dix said it could take more than two years to address the ripple of cancelled and unscheduled procedures.
Ministry won’t say how many people died waiting for surgery
That’s good news for thousands of British Columbians, but it may be too late for some.
A total of 3,988 people are “unavailable” to reschedule their procedures for “non-COVID-19” reasons, according to Dix.
The health ministry is not providing details as to what “unavailable” means — whether those individuals have requested to defer their procedures due to concerns about going into a hospital during the pandemic, or whether some may have died or had their condition deteriorate, while waiting for their procedure.
Yesterday, Dix maintained it’s “largely” people who have asked to defer because of Covid concerns.
However, the health ministry told BC Today information about the number of British Columbians who may have died awaiting the rescheduling of their cancelled surgeries is “unavailable.”
In Ontario, a University Health Network report estimated the province’s surgical shut down may have resulted in 35 cardiac patients dying between March 15 and early May.
A query to the health minister on why the province is not tracking and reporting deaths related to surgical delays — as well as patients whose condition deteriorated to the point where surgery is no longer an option — went unanswered.