90 Percent of Surgeries Postponed During First COVID-19 Wave Now Completed, BC Says

January 7, 2021 Updated: January 8, 2021

The B.C. government said 90 percent of patients who had their surgeries postponed during the first wave of COVID-19 had completed their surgeries as of Nov. 22, 2020.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Wednesday that between May 18 and Nov. 12, 2020, over 163,000 patients were able to have their procedures done, including 90 percent of those whose surgeries had to be postponed during the first wave of the pandemic.

The turnaround came as a result of a surgery renewal plan launched on May 7 to resume non-urgent elective surgeries, postponed on March 16, to free up hospital beds for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, according to the provincial government.

At the time, it was estimated that 30,000 non-urgent scheduled surgeries would either have to be postponed or left on a waitlist due to COVID-19, and a further 24,000 patients could also be without a referral to a waitlist, which prompted the B.C. government to launch the plan that includes calling patients, adding new capacity, hiring, and training staff to address the backlog.

As of Nov. 22, 2020, health authorities had called 111,584 patients who were on waitlists before May 7, 2020, asking if they were ready to reschedule their surgeries.

Officials also focused on urgent and long awaited operations, performing nearly 1,000 more urgent scheduled surgeries, and 6,299 more surgeries for patients waiting longer than twice their target wait. An additional 7,979 hours are added to the operating room time as well.

Since April 1, more than 30 surgeons have been hired, and 1,172 surgical specialty nurses have started their training and 86 have completed their programs.

Despite the new resources added, the B.C. government expects all postponed surgeries to only be completed within the next 15 to 22 months.

Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Del Dorscheid, centre, takes part in board rounds in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Canada, on April 21, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, a new report released by think tank Fraser Institute last month says that Canadians have to wait even longer to receive their diagnostic and surgical treatments compared to the previous year.

“Specialist physicians surveyed report a median waiting time of 22.6 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment—longer than the wait of 20.9 weeks reported in 2019,” the authors said.

“This year’s wait time is the longest wait time recorded in this survey’s history and is 143 percent longer than in 1993, when it was just 9.3 weeks.”

Titled “Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2020 Report,” the report breaks down the waiting time into two consecutive segments.

From the time Canadians are referred by a general practitioner to consultation with a specialist, they have to wait for 10.5 weeks in 2020, longer than 2019 by 0.4 weeks. But when compared to 1993, which was only 3.7 weeks, the wait time has increased significantly by 184 percent.

After consultation with the specialist to the point of receiving the treatment, Canadians have to wait for another 12.1 weeks in 2020, compared to 10.8 weeks in 2019. Again, contrast that with 1993, which was 5.6 weeks, it is a 116 percent increase in waiting time.

According to the authors, the total waiting time faced by patients across the provinces varies widely. BC reports 26.6 weeks of total wait time while Ontario has the shortest at 17.4 weeks. The longest wait time goes to Prince Edward Island with 46.5 weeks.

Canadians also experience significant waiting time for their diagnostic scanning: CT scan (5.4 weeks), MRI scan (11.1 weeks), and ultrasound (3.5 weeks).

The report concludes that even though provinces spend big on health expenditure to reduce wait time, “it is clear that patients in Canada continue to wait too long to receive medically necessary treatment.”