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Up to two years to clear elective surgery backlog, B.C. gov't says as part of ambitious plan

Last Updated May 7, 2020 at 7:27 pm PDT


It will take up to two years to make up for elective surgeries missed and added to the list, B.C. government says

During COVID-19 restrictions, about 30,000 elective surgeries were missed

Operating rooms won’t be working around the clock, but they will be working weekends and extended hours

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The province is laying out an ambitious plan to make up for thousands of elective surgeries put off because of the COVID-19 crisis, while making clear this is not the case of flipping a switch and returning to where we were before.

According to the B.C. government, what’s to come is a dramatic shift over time.

Operating rooms won’t be working around the clock, but they will be working weekends and extended hours.

It’s no small feat, with 30,000 surgeries missed during the coronavirus pandemic. When you add to that those on the wait list before the crisis hit and surgeries requisitioned during the crisis, there are 93,000 elective surgeries outstanding.

The province says it took just weeks to wipe out gains made over the past three years to cutting down the wait list, and that it will take up to two years to get through the back log in place now.

The fist step starts on Thursday. That’s contacting patients to ensure they want to continue with a planned procedure.

Staffing is a big issue, and there’s a big focus on increasing who is working in B.C.’s hospitals.

This includes offering hundreds of nurses working part-time or on a casual basis full-time positions, intending to hire every one of the 1,550 nurses graduating in the province this year and training 400 nurses in the special skills required for operating room and post-surgical procedures.


The province is also working to recruit surgeons and anesthetists.

The cost for this effort has been pegged at $250-million.

While operating rooms will work longer hours daily, they will also ramp up to be able to perform surgeries on weekends as well over the next few months.

The hope is that what is normally reduced capacity in the summer because of staff taking holidays will be able to operate at full capacity this year.

Meanwhile, private clinics are also being called upon to do outpatient procedures, like cataracts.

For those getting surgeries, there will be new COVID-19 patient screening and risk assessments done the day before the procedure. The day of, patients will be asked questions, such as if they have symptoms and where they have been over the previous days.The medical team will then then determine the risk, if the procedure will continue and then what PPE is needed.

Standard protection will be used if there’s little or no risk, and enhanced PPE will be utilized if it’s available.

It will take about four weeks to ramp back up, the province says, adding contracted private medical facilities will be at full working capacity by the end of May.

Full capacity for provincial hospitals is expected by mid-June.

Having the knowledge of what the first wave brought, preparing for a potential second allows more finessed planning. Now, only half the hospital sites in B.C. will have space allocated for COVID-19 response, leaving other hospitals to operate as they were before the crisis, only to be brought in if absolutely necessary

But the silver lining is, after that and going forward, the province will have what’s needed to minimize times.

There will also be a greater use of and reliance on virtual care going forward.