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COVID-19 related staffing shortages blamed for surgery cancellations at some Fraser Health hospitals

Last Updated Apr 20, 2021 at 6:05 pm PDT

Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency entrance on Friday February 26th, 2021. (Image Credit: CityNews)

SURREY, BC (NEWS 1130) — Dozens of more surgeries have been postponed at hospitals in the region hit hardest by B.C.’s third wave of the pandemic.

Nearly half of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the Fraser Health region are at Surrey Memorial — which is also the site of a new outbreak.

Fraser Health CEO, Dr. Victoria Lee, says most hospitals are now at 96 per cent capacity and up to 70 surgeries across the region have been postponed.

“So far, it’s been the five OR rooms –two in Surrey, two in Abbotsford and one in RCH out of 60 OR rooms that we normally run.

“We have 229 patients that are in our hospitals and 67 in our ICU and normally, Surrey looks after roughly half of COVID-19 patients.”

The outbreak at Surrey Memorial is currently limited to five patients in one unit, so the ER is not impacted.

Related Article: B.C. records 849 COVID-19 cases, one death as high transmission stresses health care system

Lee admits more surgeries will likely be postponed over the next few weeks.

“We may need to look at additional measures, but that all depends on current monitoring of cases and impact on the hospital.”

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Health Offier, Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, admits workers are tired and frustrated, so the focus remains on getting as many people as possible immunized.

“Vaccine is our ticket out of this and everybody is working just as hard as they possibly can to get thousands and thousands of doses into arms every single day. It is very understandable that everyone is entirely fed up with this pandemic. The end is in sight, but we’re not there yet.”

Brodkin says, despite recent images of crowded beaches in Vancouver, she’s confident only a few rule-breakers are ignoring public safety orders.

“The number of people that are actually, actively, flouting the public health restrictions is probably fairly small.”

Fraser Health is now offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone older than 40 in high-risk areas where transmission rates remain high.

Key neighbourhoods of concern include Surrey’s West Newton, East Newton, Whalley, Panorama, North Surrey and Fleetwood.