Coronavirus: B.C.’s Interior Health announces resumption of elective surgeries

Click to play video 'Vernon patient relieved elective surgeries resuming' Vernon patient relieved elective surgeries resuming
Extended interview with Vernon patient Shawn Ellis. The Okanagan man is relieved elective surgeries are resuming. He had been scheduled to undergo hernia surgery in March but it was put off due to the pandemic. – May 13, 2020

The Interior Health Authority says elective surgeries that were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic will resume later this month.

Interior Health representatives announced the news on Wednesday morning, adding elective surgeries will resume starting May 19.

“Throughout the resumption of services, our priority is to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” Interior Health said in a statement.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: More than 3,000 cancelled elective surgeries to be rescheduled in Interior Health

The organization said it is calling patients to confirm their health status and if they’re able to move forward with surgery.

“We recognize that some individuals may wish to continue to postpone their surgery at this time,” said Interior Health. “Those who choose not to proceed with their surgeries immediately will hold their spot on the waitlist.

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Patient relieved surgery will go ahead

Shawn Ellis’s surgery was one of thousands of surgeries postponed due to the pandemic.

The Vernon man was supposed to have surgery on March 20 after suffering a hernia in January, but it was cancelled as officials worked to ensure there was space in hospitals to deal with coronavirus patients if cases spiked.

Ellis said he was initially super disappointed that his surgery was being put off as he is in a lot of pain but saw the bigger picture that B.C. is in the midst of a crisis.

The store manager said that without the surgery, he currently spends a lot of his free time resting and recovering from the workweek and even walking for more than 10 minutes is too much for him.

“[I’ve] been doing my best to be patient and work though it but some days it is definitely not easy,” Ellis said.

News elective surgeries will be resuming in the health authority was a huge relief for Ellis.

He has been in contact with the hospital and expects a new surgery date will be set shortly.

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Ellis said he just wants to get back to his normal life and is not concerned about going ahead with the surgery during the pandemic.

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“I recognize things will be a little different at the hospitals now. There will be a lot of extra precautions,” Ellis said.

“I’m willing to jump through whatever hoops it takes to get me through and get my surgery done because the longer it takes for me to get in the more discomfort and the more pain I have to deal with.”

Ellis hopes he will be able to get his surgery done soon and he can be back on his bicycle by the end of the summer.

3,000 surgeries postponed

IH added that in an effort to support as many people as possible, it will be maximizing its efforts to provide minor procedures that do not require an operating room, as well as day surgeries that do not require overnight hospital stays.

Click to play video 'B.C. health minister announces plan to resume backlog of cancelled elective surgeries' B.C. health minister announces plan to resume backlog of cancelled elective surgeries
B.C. health minister announces plan to resume backlog of cancelled elective surgeries – May 7, 2020

It also said to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19, a number of measures will be implemented as part of the surgical process, including:

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  • When possible, patients will be assessed through a virtual pre-admission clinic by video conference or telephone prior to surgery.
  • Consistent screening tools and risk assessment guidelines will be used.
  • Patients will be assessed 24-72 hours prior to surgery and upon arrival the day of surgery.
  • Surgeries will be scheduled with time to accommodate additional cleaning and infection control measures.

Interior Health said patients will be rescheduled based on priority.

Click to play video 'Provinces face huge backlog of elective surgeries' Provinces face huge backlog of elective surgeries
Provinces face huge backlog of elective surgeries – May 8, 2020

In a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown said just over 3,000 elective surgeries in the region had been postponed between March 16 to May 10.

“I know it will take some time to get back to where we were prior to March,” said Brown, “and we will really do everything we can to address those living with pain as they wait on their surgery.”

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During that time span, Brown said more than 3,500 surgeries had been performed by Interior Health teams. She said those surgeries were either urgent or emergency cases.

Asked to co-relate those 3,500 surgeries during that timespan to previous years, Brown estimated the number to be around 50 per cent of normal.

Brown was then asked if IH is eyeing job layoffs during the pandemic, like other businesses and government agencies.

She said no layoffs were planned.

Click to play video 'Kelowna nurse shares song for front line workers' Kelowna nurse shares song for front line workers
Kelowna nurse shares song for front line workers – May 9, 2020

“When the province made the very difficult decision to postpone elective surgeries, it did allow us to utilize some of our health care professionals to get us in a better state of readiness,” said Brown.

“I think that decision actually really helped B.C., and helped us get plans in place and different things organized so that we could cope with whatever came through our doors.”

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Brown added that Interior Health anticipates “needing more staff” to get back to pre-coronavirus surgery levels, “because we’ll have to spread our time that we operate longer each day, and potentially into weekends.

“So I anticipate no layoffs.”