Sterile instruments at the Cambie Surgery Centre, one of the private clinics contracted to help B.C.’s health ministry catch up on surgeries cancelled due to COVID-19 public health measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Sterile instruments at the Cambie Surgery Centre, one of the private clinics contracted to help B.C.’s health ministry catch up on surgeries cancelled due to COVID-19 public health measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. says surgical wait list now below pre-pandemic levels

More operating room staff a permanent increase

B.C.’s health ministry currently has about 84,000 people on its waiting lists for non-urgent scheduled surgeries, 10 per cent fewer than last February before COVID-19 pandemic measures put a halt to procedures and began emptying hospital beds.

Health Minister Adrian Dix marked the one-year anniversary of the cancellation of elective surgeries Friday, thanking people who came out of retirement, increased their skills or came to B.C. to tackle the backlog created when more than more than 30,000 scheduled surgeries were postponed last year.

One of those coming out of retirement to led the surgical renewal effort was Michael Marchbank, the former Fraser Health CEO brought in for a year to manage the expansion of B.C.’s surgical capacity. He said the additional surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and other staff added in the past year represent a permanent expansion of capacity for a hospital system that has struggled to keep up with a growing and aging population.

Surgery contracts with private clinics have also been used in the past year to recover from the pandemic disruption, as new patients continue to be added to B.C.’s health care responsibilities.

RELATED: B.C. surgeries ‘almost back to normal’ by September

RELATED: Operating room hours extended to make up ground

“The 274 surgical specialty nurses who have started their training, and the 172 who have completed training, is a permanent change for the better,” Marchbank said March 19.

Since April 1, 2020, B.C. has hired 44 surgeons, 54 anesthesiologists, 410 perioperative registered nurses, 254 post-anesthetic recovery registered nurses and 346 medical device reprocessing technicians.

B.C. wait times peaked in May 2020, as U.S. hospitals were going over capacity with COVID-19 patients, following earlier pandemic crises in China and northern Italy. Part of Vancouver’s convention centre was prepared to serve as an overflow hospital.


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tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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