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AHS starts to work through backlog of surgeries after pause due to COVID-19

A file photo of a healthcare worker pushing a stretcher. Getty Images

More than 160 surgeries will be performed in the province on Monday, as Alberta Health Services resumes some scheduled procedures.

Non-urgent scheduled and elective surgeries had been put on pause in March as the healthcare system braced for COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions. Restarting some elective procedures this week is part of the province’s relaunch plan.

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AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said 115 surgeries were scheduled for Monday in the Calgary zone, 28 surgeries in the Edmonton zone and 20 in the North zone.

There were no numbers available specifically for Monday in the other two zones, though Williamson said, this week, 20 surgeries are planned for the South zone and 20 in the Central zone.

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Between 3,500 and 4,000 elective surgeries had been postponed each week since the pause in procedures mid-March.

The health authority plans to complete between 26,000 and 30,000 surgeries over the next six weeks; Williamson said AHS typically provides 37,000 surgeries over the same time period.

The procedures will include between 9,000 and 13,000 scheduled surgeries as well as roughly 17,000 urgent procedures.

Williamson said AHS will focus on day surgeries, such as cataracts, gynecological, general day surgery, nose surgery, reconstructive plastic surgery, vascular and urology, in the first two weeks.

“Inpatient surgeries will not resume at this time, to ensure we continue to have the capacity needed for the anticipated surge in patients with COVID-19,” Williamson said.

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“AHS is proceeding with a mix of minor and major surgeries based on the determination that the rate of new COVID-19 infections does not present a significant risk to patients or staff or the capacity of the system,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said.

Shandro said non-urgent surgeries will be phased in.

“We’ll carefully monitor and evaluate to determine if more procedures can resume — like short-term overnight stays in hospital, for example. If our evaluation determines that there is too much at risk, we’ll take a step back if we need to.”

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