Prince Rupert Regional Hospital and all other Northern Health sites that provide surgical services are now operating to near full capacity after COVID-19 shut-downs in March, the health authority said in statement.
“Between May 18 and June 14, we called 2,639 patients to ask if they wished to continue with their surgery and we completed 1083 scheduled and unscheduled surgeries,” Colleen Nyce, Northern Health board chair said in the June 18 media release.
The priority focus will be on urgent surgeries for patients who require procedures in less than four weeks; patients who have had surgeries postponed; and patients who have waited more than twice the clinically recommended time. As well patients who can safely have surgeries as day procedures will be seen.
“Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’re continuing to learn and adapt to enable patients to get the surgeries they need. Every day, hospitals are reviewing operating room and hospital bed capacity to prioritize urgent cases, including urgent oncology and emergency cases,” Nyce said.
“At this time, we will be addressing patient needs based on urgency, prior postponement, and time waiting for surgery. As elective surgeries are restarted, we are committed to restoring timely access to all surgeries,” Nyce said.
Although surgical renewal is moving forward Nyce said, Northern Health knows there were already patients waiting for dental, hip, knee and other surgeries that they had hoped to provide over the last three months.
“The COVID-19 situation has further extended the surgical wait time, which we understand is very difficult for patients and their surgeons,” she said.
Nyce said the changes will continue throughout the summer, fall, and beyond to help meet the needs of patients whose surgeries have been delayed by COVID-19 as well as keep up with the new demands for surgery over the next 17 to 24 months.
“Northern Health is grateful for a committed and dedicated group of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and support staff who make this progress possible, particularly given the ongoing need to manage the COVID-19 situation. Northern Health is committed to these surgical priorities but it is important to remember that the restart of elective surgeries remains highly vulnerable to the pandemic context.
“As Dr. Henry, Provincial Health Officer has indicated, we are likely to experience a second wave of COVID-19 this fall. That, or a surge in new cases over the summer, may disrupt the number of surgeries that can be safely performed,” Nyce warned.
“That’s where each one of us can make a difference. We must stay committed to using the practices that stop the spread of COVID-19 – including physical distancing, staying home when we are not feeling well, washing hands and coughing etiquette. In Northern Health’s COVID-19 effort and surgery renewal commitment, we are dependent on each other — to stand apart and work together,” Nyce said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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