By this Friday (Aug. 27), an estimated 612 elective surgical procedures will have been postponed throughout Interior Health, including at Royal Inland Hospital.
In addition, cataract surgeries at Pleasant Valley Vision Centre in Armstrong have also been postponed due to the nearby White Rock Lake wildfire and the community being placed on evacuation alert.
Many elective surgeries (excluding urgent cancer- and trauma-related procedures) at RIH were cancelled this week and last week and will again be axed next week.
Interior Health told KTW the reason for the surgery cancellations is due to an influx of patients evacuated from wildfire-impacted areas elsewhere and a rising number of COVID-19 patients, particularly in Kelowna General Hospital.
In a reply to queries from KTW, Interior Health provided a statement that included statistics on cancelled and performed surgeries.
“Interior Health is working to complete the postponed non-urgent surgeries as quickly as possible,” the statement reads.
While more than 600 elective surgeries were cancelled, Interior Health said that, between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 713 urgent and emergency surgeries were performed at the three larger hospitals (395 at Kelowna General, 193 at Royal Inland Hospital and 115 at Vernon Jubilee ).
The health authority said some non-urgent surgeries have also continued, with 637 elective surgeries completed at the three hospitals (246 at Kelowna General, 289 at Royal Inland and 102 at Vernon Jubilee) between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20.
The cancellations came on the heels of memos obtained by KTW and other media outlets detailing that Royal Inland Hospital is overcapacity and that some departments are severely short of nurses, who have left the job due to being overworked.
The cancellation of all elective surgeries this week and last week was first confirmed to KTW by Dr. Scott Hughes, one of eight orthopaedic surgeons at RIH.
Hughes said the issue is not having enough resources — staff and operating room time.
Hughes has echoed other doctors and nurses who have told KTW and other media that Royal Inland Hospital is faltering, with staff morale at low levels.
“We are losing doctors, nurses and allied staff to other centres as we fight a seemingly unwinnable fight,” he said.
“This needs more attention and our community can no longer act passively. Action has to be taken. The new [patient-care] tower will not change the tide without further resources and staff.”
An RIH employee, who did not want their name published for fear of employment repercussions, said colleagues are continuously working in extremely short-staffed situations and patient care is becoming increasingly unsafe.
“Nurses, doctors, unit clerks, care-aids, you name it, are dropping like flies and moving away from our hospital, even with record numbers of patients coming in,” the employee said.
In its emailed statement to KTW, Interior Health said the Commitment to Surgical Renewal prioritizes urgent surgeries, patients who had their surgery postponed, patients who have been waiting over twice their clinical benchmark, surgeries that do not require patients to stay overnight in hospital and maximizing surgeries that can be performed outside of operating rooms.
BY THE NUMBERS
A sample of wait lists for elective surgeries in Interior Health and at Royal Inland Hospital, as of July 31, per the Interior Health website:
Knee replacement: 1,528 cases waiting in IH, of which 496 are at RIH;
Hip replacement: 806 in IH; 215 at RIH;
Spinal/back surgery: 504 in IH; 260 at RIH;
Shoulder surgery: 353 in IH; 77 at RIH;
Sinus surgery: 230 in IH; 67 at RIH.