B.C. surgery wait list getting shorter after COVID-19 disruption

Medical staff added after wait times doubled for some.

Extra surgeons and medical staff have helped to begin bringing B.C.’s surgery wait list down after it peaked with more than 100,000 people waiting for procedures due to COVID-19 preparations in the health-care system.

As of Nov. 22, 2002, 90 per cent of operations that were postponed in the first wave of COVID-19 have been completed, Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a Jan. 6 update on a surgery renewal plan that began in May.

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The total wait list has been reduced by six per cent since March 31 and 12 per cent from its peak on May 28, when 100,297 people were waiting for surgery.

The latest progress report shows that for the month ending Nov. 12, 2,233 non-urgent surgeries were performed on patients waiting longer than twice their target wait time. The wait list decreased to 88,401, four per cent below the same period in 2019 and down 12 per cent since the peak in May.

Along with regional health authority contracted surgeries with private clinics, the health ministry has hired 33 surgeons, 32 anesthesiologists, nearly 500 specialist nurses and other staff. The ministry projects that all postponed surgeries will be caught up by next summer, after an additional $187 million has been allocated to catch up.

“These are all remarkable achievements at the six-month mark,” Dix said.

Michael Marchbank, the former CEO of Fraser Health hired to lead the surgical renewal program, said calling more than 111,000 patients to see if they were ready to reschedule was generally appreciated, after the uncertainty of the pandemic. It also revealed that some patients no longer wanted surgery, had it completed or were on the wait list due to errors, reducing the list by 8,000.

surgery progress report
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