Former Fraser Health CEO Michael Marchbank speaks on B.C. health ministry’s COVID-19 recovery plan for scheduled surgeries, B.C. legislature, July 21, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. catching up on COVID-19 scheduled surgery backlog

More than half of cancelled procedures made up by June

Adding staff and running operating rooms on weekends are helping B.C. catch up on the 32,000 scheduled surgeries that were cancelled in the early months of the COVID-19 preparation, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.

Dix and former Fraser Health CEO Michael Marchbank gave their first major update on the surgery backlog July 21, reporting that more than half of the people who have been offered procedures cancelled during May and June have had their surgeries completed.

People are spending more time on waiting lists than last year, but accelerated schedules and training additional operating room staff are making a difference, Dix said. Priority is being given to people who have waited for more than twice the target wait time for their procedure.

Marchbank, appointed by Dix to oversee the recovery from the lengthy suspension of all but urgent surgeries that was imposed March 19, said the project has placed an emphasis on performing cancer, heart and neurosurgeries. Operating on weekends has been key, he said.

“If we eliminated Sundays, we would never catch up,” Marchbank said.

Health ministry calculations at the start of the project showed that it would take 17 to 24 months, assuming a 30 per cent reduction in efficiency.

During the reporting period, May 10 to June 25, the ministry calculates that 97 per cent of last year’s operating room hours were made available. With additional staff and extended operating hours, Interior Health reached 100 per cent of last year’s operating room hours, and Vancouver Island Health reached 109 per cent of last year’s total.


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