B.C. man among hundreds left waiting in pain due to Victoria operating room closures

Click to play video: 'Sooke man worried Victoria OR closures will delay his hip surgery for years'
Sooke man worried Victoria OR closures will delay his hip surgery for years
Jay Hammond says he was told by his orthopedic surgeon it was going to be years before he received the surgery he needed. Island Health says it will likely be about 40 weeks or ten months until the 69-year-old will be operated on. The closures were due to staffing issues at both Royal Jubilee and Victoria General. Kylie Stanton reports. – Sep 8, 2023

A Vancouver Island man is speaking out about operating room closures in Victoria that have left him waiting indefinitely for a badly-needed hip replacement surgery.

Jay Hammond, 69, has been dealing with a bad hip for more than a year. He was referred to Victoria’s RebalanceMD orthopedic clinic last summer, and got a CT scan which revealed most of the cartilage in his hip joint was gone.

“Which explains the intense pain I have when I walk, when I take the dogs across the street … it’s basically bone on bone, it’s like a raw nerve.”

“Everyday activities you don’t think twice about … they just don’t happen the way they should.”

Click to play video: 'Surgeries postponed due to hospital staff shortage in Victoria'
Surgeries postponed due to hospital staff shortage in Victoria

In March, his doctor told him he’d been placed on the surgical wait list, but on Tuesday he got a call from his surgeon telling him that the closure of four Victoria-area operating rooms meant the procedure would be delayed with no timeline.

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“He had to tell me that, ‘Yeah, you’re still on the list, and I am sorry,'” he said.

“He said it’s hundreds and it’s not going to happen anytime soon, as far as this year, not a chance.”

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Hammond was not alone. RebalanceMD sent letters this week to a number of patients apologizing and explaining that the delays were happening as “a direct result of surgical staffing shortages.”

The letter added that doctors were equally frustrated, and urged patients who felt compelled to speak out to their MLAs and local officials about the impact the delays would have on them.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government takes over Prince George Surgical Centre'
B.C. government takes over Prince George Surgical Centre

“As you can imagine there’s frustration and disappointment but again there is some very real challenges in the acute care setting and we concede that and patients — they understand that as well,” RebalanceMD director of operations Tye Spicer told Global News.

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“But at the end of the day these are decisions, these are OR closures that have massive impacts on patients.”

Spicer said the clinic was hoping to rebook patients within a few months, but said the reality of the situation will depend on the operating room staffing situation.

“So we stop short of making promises.”

Island Health confirmed 18 out of 22 operating rooms at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General Hospital were currently in use, and said operating with reduced surgical capacity during the summer is “general practice.”

It said it typically ramps service back up during the fall, but acknowledged it would continue to operate four operating rooms short through Oct. 27 “due to ongoing healthcare workforce challenges.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. health officials not contracting surgeries to private clinics like other provinces'
B.C. health officials not contracting surgeries to private clinics like other provinces

It added that both hospitals have been running on a reduced operating room scheduled since last fall.

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“Plans are in place to ramp back up to using an additional OR at each of Victoria General and Royal Jubilee Hospitals in November,” the health authority said in a statement.

Island Health added that it was committed to rescheduling postponed surgeries as soon as possible, and that it was in the midst of an “aggressive nation-wide recruitment campaign.”

B.C.’s health ministry acknowledged the closures were not ideal, but pointed to statistics showing operating room hours provincewide were actually up.

“We set records for surgery for the month of August in B.C., and the demand for surgery grows as well,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

“So the short answer is we are working with our doctors, with Island Health, to address this specific problem. Because when you need surgery, it’s the priority in your life.”

Hammond told Global News he was not optimistic he’ll be getting his hip fixed any time soon.

He said he understood there were complex issues behind the delays, but that health officials need to come up with a solution to get more operating rooms open, keeping in mind there are real people behind the numbers.

“The ministry needs to look at just how much pain is involved,” he said.

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“These are supposed to be the good years and right now they’re not so good.”

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