Surgical staff in action at an operating room at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Surgery shuffle in Surrey a ‘charade’

No net gain in ORs yet with new outpatient hospital

Anesthesiologists are accusing Fraser Health of playing “musical operating rooms” by opening brand new ORs at the new $237-million Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre while simultaneously closing other ORs at nearby Surrey Memorial Hospital.

An ongoing shortage of anesthesiologists has kept the region’s hospitals from opening more ORs and they continue to wrestle with lengthy backlogs for elective surgeries.

Only two of the six new ORs in the just-opened outpatient hospital are being used initially and they are in effect transferred from SMH, which drops from 10 staffed ORs (out of 13 available) to eight.

That triples the number of empty ORs sitting unused in Surrey from three to nine, according to Dr. Roland Orfaly, spokesperson for B.C.’s Coalition of Anesthesiologists for Change.

“The opening of ORs at the Jim Pattison Centre is just a charade to protect the reputation of the politicians,” Orfaly said, calling the empty ORs expensive storage rooms.

“In terms of dealing with the backlog of patients waiting for surgery, all those capital dollars will have no effect until B.C. improves its ability to recruit and retain more anesthesiologists.”

He said the failure to recruit more staff means there’s no net improvement in surgery at the two facilities, and possibly a reduction because the Jim Pattison ORs are now available only for day surgery, rather than the more urgent cases those staff sometimes treated at SMH.

“There’s now less access for major surgery than there was before,” said Orfaly, who lives in Surrey and works at Royal Columbian Hospital.

Fraser Health officials say the plan all along has been to initially transfer surgical staff, anesthesiologists and patients to the outpatient hospital from SMH, helping decongest the main hospital.

Dr. Peter Blair, the region’s program medical director for surgery, confirmed there is no net increase in surgical capacity for now – due to the shortage of anesthesiologists.

“There will be when we get all the ORs running,” he said.

Recruitment efforts continue, he said, adding Fraser Health has just hired one new anesthesiologist to start in July and hopes to recruit three more.

If successful, two would go to Royal Columbian Hospital while another two would allow Fraser Health to start running four ORs at the Surrey outpatient hospital starting this fall.

Blair stressed Fraser Health has all the money it needs to operate the Jim Pattison outpatient centre as planned.

He said the health authority has no control over the number of anesthesiologists who opt to work in the region, noting they are paid through the Medical Services Plan.

The anesthesiologists agree Fraser Health’s hands are tied.

They say the province needs to spend more on their pay and supports in order to recruit more anaesthesiologists, ease the shortage and open more ORs.

Their counterparts in some other parts of Canada are paid twice as much, Orfaly said.

“When Fraser Health tries to recruit, the response is ‘I’m not moving to B.C. and taking a 50-per-cent pay cut,'” Orfaly said. “If government can’t address that underlying problem, this is going to continue.”

They also say the government could hire anesthesia assistants to help with the workload and make ORs run more efficiently.

Orfaly’s outspoken coalition of anesthesiologists are mostly also members of the broader B.C. Anesthesiology Society, but feel it has been too restrained in criticizing the provincial government.

Orfaly predicts more OR closures at hospitals across the region this summer, causing more cancelled surgeries and lengthening waits for treatment.

“There will be hundreds of OR slates cancelled across Fraser Health this summer due to the anesthesiologist shortage, meaning thousands of surgeries,” he predicted.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Return-It depots change beverage container deposits from 20 to 10 cents

Change will be implemented on Oct. 1, with a transition period being held until Oct. 11

Langley group rebrands but remains focused on helping local seniors

Langley Seniors Community Action Table is now Langley Seniors in Action

LETTER: Langley woman shocked by abuse of ‘My Mr. Rogers’ – Dr. Bonnie

Public workers and front line staff are working to protect and help everyone

New Langley digs facilitate 500 virus tests a day

Fraser Health expands COVID-19 testing and collection in Langley with move to Kwantlen university

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Young man assaulted, left for 12 hours until help called in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park

Vancouver police are looking to identify the victim as they investigate an assault on Monday evening

Boulders near Harrison vandalized with derogatory word

Vandalism likely occured between Sunday evening and Tuesday evening

Most Read