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Kelowna man’s cancer surgery wait highlights strained health system

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It was Friday morning when Randy Stinson got the call he’s been anxiously awaiting.

The 67-year-old Kelowna man was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in November 2020.

“It means so much to us,” said Stinson. “There are no guarantees with cancer, but having a surgery date is a real start for me.”

Read more: COVID-19: Kelowna, B.C. cancer patient desperate for surgery as Omicron forces delays

Six months later, a check-up revealed he had cancer in his thyroid, but booking that surgery proved difficult.

“We were told that they were having trouble finding somebody to assist the surgeon as well. There’s other issues, you know, the operating rooms being short-staffed,” said Randy’s wife, Janice Stinson.

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However, after Stinson’s story was highlighted on Global News, he got a call saying the surgery has been booked for later this month.

“It’s a godsend,” he said. “After you guys got involved, we got a phone call the following day, and they actually got an appointment surgery date on January 24.

“So we’re ecstatic and it’s like Christmas all over for us.”

The Stinsons, along with some Global TV viewers, wondered why he was being sidelined, while Premier John Horgan, who is battling throat cancer, was able to get surgery in a timely fashion.

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In an e-mail to Global News, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said “decisions around surgery and treatment options are discussed between a patient and a team of health-care professionals who assess (a) patient’s individual needs. Health-care professionals make those medical decisions regarding the urgency of treatment.”

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While thousands of surgical procedures have been postponed across B.C. over the course of the pandemic, the province assures urgent surgeries are still being performed.

According to the ministry, in the past four months alone — between Sept. 5 2021 and Jan.1, 2022 — 4,029 surgeries have been postponed in B.C., including 1,346 within the Interior Health region.

Read more: Over half a million fewer surgeries have been performed since start of COVID-19: report

On Friday, health minister Adrian Dix re-iterated that the recent decision to postpone all non-urgent surgeries indefinitely as of Jan. 4 is a necessary step as the recent case surge adds more pressure on hospitals.

“To ensure that we control our hospital capacity, so we have space for patients with COVID-19 who may need hospital care. And, just as important, to deal with issues of medical absenteeism. In other words, people who are unable to come to work because they are sick,” Dix said.

While it may be necessary, the Stinsons sympathize with anyone facing a lengthy surgery wait, adding the system needs to be revamped.

“It’s terrible. I mean, most people don’t ask to get sick,” Janice Stinson said. “Canada has always been known for having great health care, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.”

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The ministry also provided some information on delayed surgeries last year within Interior Health.

According to the ministry, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 12, Interior Health postponed 1,687 surgeries, but that 1, 056 surgeries (66.5 per cent) have now been completed.

The ministry added that Interior Health is working to ensure that all remaining postponed surgeries are prioritized.

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