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Thousands await medical procedures in Waterloo Region, Guelph

The main entrance at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

There are almost 16,000 patients waiting for medical procedures in Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County, according to the five hospitals in the area.

The update says hospitals have had to redeploy staff to deal with critically ill patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has forced the numbers to climb during each wave of the pandemic.

Read more: Ontario to begin resuming non-urgent surgeries on Monday

Across the area, there are 15,937 patients awaiting surgery or procedures with 56 per cent of those affected being cataract patients.

St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener and Guelph General Hospital are the two hospitals with the biggest backlogs to deal with as 7,490 patients and 4,095 patients on the hospitals’ respective waitlists. Around 7,600 of those patients are cataract-day surgery patients.

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Waitlists at the area’s biggest hospital, Grand River Hospital in Kitchener (2,254) and Cambridge Memorial Hospital (1,922, with 1,337 for cataract day-surgery) are also lengthy as well, while Groves Memorial Community Hospital in Fergus also has 176 patients awaiting procedures.

At the beginning of January, the province put all non-urgent surgeries on pause, estimating it would affect around 10,000 people per week.

Click to play video: 'Smaller hospitals struggling with COVID patient surge, staff shortages' Smaller hospitals struggling with COVID patient surge, staff shortages
Smaller hospitals struggling with COVID patient surge, staff shortages – Feb 4, 2022

Toward the end of the month, the pause was lifted with some of those surgeries resuming in certain areas including pediatrics, diagnostic services, cancer screenings, some ambulatory clinics, private hospitals, and independent health facilities.

“We welcomed last week’s announcement by the province which outlined a plan to phase in gradual increases. At GGH, cancer screening, some diagnostic procedures and some ambulatory care clinics resumed this week,” Guelph General Hospital’s Melissa Skinner stated.

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“We hope this is just the beginning and that over the next several weeks we will be able to gradually restart more and more.”

She added: “I can appreciate this may not feel soon enough for those patients and their family members who have been waiting so long. Our focus is moving ahead, carefully but with purpose.”

Skinner said the hospital is hoping to address some of the backlog as well.

Lee Fairclough, St. Mary’s General Hospital president, said the hospital staff understands how anxious patients who are awaiting procedures are.

Read more: ‘I feel forgotten’: Patients in Ontario wait for surgeries postponed due to COVID

“Patients are sharing their frustrations with us, and many are fearful or angry at the current circumstances,” she said.

“So many sacrifices have been made throughout the pandemic by everyone — ones that continue to be made. Regional hospitals are doing everything we can to prepare for the gradual ramp-up of surgeries and procedures across our hospitals.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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