Surgeries have been completed for 52% of the 17,750 people whose operations were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and who have been contacted so far, B.C. health officials say.
The province provided an update on Tuesday on the progress of clearing the backlog of more than 30,000 procedures that were cancelled back in March to clear out hospital space in case of a surges in coronavirus cases. They restarted on May 18.
About 62,700 patients were contacted between May 7 to July 12 to make their appointments. From May 18 to June 25, about 33,700 operations were performed, representing 91 per cent of last year’s volume, and urgent surgery volumes exceeded last year’s too.
“British Columbians have made enormous sacrifices to keep our communities as a safe as possible from COVID-19,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a news release.
“In May, we committed to significantly increase the number of surgeries performed beyond pre-COVID-19 levels to keep up with new demands for surgery and complete the surgeries lost to COVID-19.”
Summer delays due to staff going on vacation will be cut by 52 per cent this year, and 29 more anesthetists have been hired, as have more than 200 nurses and technicians.
Officials had said it would take up to 24 months to clear the backlog at an additional estimated cost of $250 million. On Tuesday, health officials said the backlog can be cleared in 15 months.
“Our initial progress is significant and encouraging,” Dix said. “That progress, in some ways, is an insurance policy against the potential damaging effects of a second wave of COVID-19 and to help us address the 24,400 patients who may be identified as needing surgery.”
Lingering challenges include the anesthesia supply and working through the kinks in new team-based models of care.
Government is also still working to improve how waitlists are managed across the system, and introducing new schedules with extended days and weekends.
“We know that there is a lot of work to do and that we will face setbacks and challenges along the way,” Dix added. “We are fully committed to this work to make sure people get their surgeries. We are all in this together.”View link »