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Province says B.C. surgeons catching up from COVID

Almost all of the province’s surgeries that were postponed during the first wave of COVID-19 have now been completed.

Health minister Adrian Dix said that as of Nov. 22nd, 90 percent of patients who had their surgeries postponed have since gone under the knife.

He credits this to B.C.͛s “commitment to surgical renewal.”

“The surgical renewal commitment to patients is a massive and necessary undertaking to address postponed surgeries and meet the growing demand for surgery within British Columbia,” Dix said.

“Our sixth monthly report tells a remarkable story of achievement in the number of patients called, surgeries delivered, operating room hours extended, waitlists reduced, and staff hired and trained.”

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On March 16th, 2020, non-urgent scheduled surgeries were postponed to ensure hospitals had the capacity for COVID-19 patients. 

On May 7th, the surgical renewal plan was launched. 

Non-urgent scheduled surgeries resumed on May 18. 

The first month of surgical renewal was spent adapting to new practices and increasing surgeries until they returned to pre-COVID-19 volumes in mid-June. 

The province says those early weeks “paved the way for the gains that have occurred since then.” 

The province cited these achievements:

  • On Nov. 22th, 2020, all health authorities completed their calls to 111,584 patients who were on waitlists before May 7, to ask them if they were ready to reschedule their surgery;
  • Between May 18th and Nov. 12th, 163,696 patients received their surgery, including 90 percent of the patients who had a surgery postponed in the first wave of COVID-19’
  • An additional 7,979 hours of operating room time was added, compared to the same timeframe last year.

The health ministry says that with a focus on urgent and long-waiting surgeries, 996 more urgent scheduled surgeries and 6,299 more surgeries for patients waiting longer than two times their target wait were performed.

Waitlists have been reduced by six percent since March 31st, 2020, and 12 percent since it peaked on May 28 at 100,297.

Dix also noted that the urgent waitlist has been reduced by nine percent since March 31st, 2020, 11 percent since the peak.

 The non-urgent waitlist has been reduced by 5% since March 31, 2020, 12% since the peak.

The province says that since April 1, the following have been hired:

  • 33 surgeons;
  • 32 anesthesiologists;
  • three general-practice anesthetists;
  • 305 perioperative registered nurses;
  • 38 perioperative licensed practical nurses;
  • 171 post-anesthetic recovery registered nurses; and
  • 173 medical device reprocessing technicians.

Since April 1, 172 surgical specialty nurses have started their training and 86 have completed their programs.

͞”We launched B.C.’s commitment to surgical renewal in May. Since then, learning and adaptation have occurred each step of the way. These are significant achievements and our work will continue to build on this progress in the winter-to-spring period,,” Dix said.

“͞Everyone involved in delivering surgeries counts on each of us to stop the spread to keep our hospitals safe and our surgeries possible. Our progress, so far, in fighting COVID-19 and the remarkable achievements in our surgical renewal commitment make it clear: In a pandemic, each of us has an essential role in health care,” Dix said.

The timeline for recovery of all postponed surgeries is expected to be 15 to 22 months. 

In 2020-21, the B.C. government has allocated $187.5 million in the first year to support efforts for surgical renewal.

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