The province will reschedule elective surgeries, starting May 18, in an attempt to clear a backlog of more than 30,000 procedures cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan outlined their plan on Thursday, estimated to cost an additional $250 million to the health-care system.
“British Columbians have stepped up to the challenge of COVID-19 by making sacrifices, including thousands of people who have waited for postponed elective surgeries. This has been very difficult for people and their families,” Horgan said.
“But these sacrifices have helped flatten the curve in B.C., and now we can move forward, safely, getting people the surgeries they’ve been waiting for.”
The province is expecting it will take up to 17 to 24 months to clear the backlog of the 30,000 cancelled surgeries. There are an additional 93,000 people on the waitlist for elective surgeries.
The thousands of operations were put on hold on March 16 to free up hospital beds in case of a surge in COVID-19 patients.
Reducing wait time for knee and hip replacements had been a major platform of the NDP government. The province has described the rescheduling of elective and non-urgent surgeries as a “unique and unprecedented challenge” never faced by B.C.’s health system.
Starting May 7, doctors and health officials will reach out to patients. The first phase will take about a week and include pre-operative screening of all patients.
The surgeries will begin on May 18, with capacity to increase over four weeks to near-normal pre-COVID levels.
If a patient is not feeling well during the pre-operative screening or a surgery day, the procedure may once again be cancelled.
By June 15, the province is hoping to have all existing operating rooms running at full available capacity, and to optimize capacity over the summer in case of a possible second wave of the virus in the fall.
On Wednesday, B.C. announced 23 new cases of the disease and three new deaths. However, the number of patients in intensive care dropped to 19 — the first time it’s been under 20 since March 24.
Also on Wednesday, Horgan announced the province’s highly anticipated plan to gradually reopen the economy, health-care system, and schools, as cases slowly decline.