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B.C. is expected to hit its full surgery capacity by mid-June

Surgeries at 100% by June 15

After elective surgeries were cancelled back in mid-March, Health Minister Adrian Dix expects surgery capacity in British Columbia to get back to 100 per cent by mid-June.

On March 16, all elective surgeries in the province were postponed to ensure there would be enough hospital and ICU space in B.C. in the event of an influx of COVID-19 patients. With British Columbians largely buying into the measures to reduce the spread of the virus, that surge never came, and just 31 COVID-19 patients remain in hospital in B.C. As of Tuesday, no virus-related hospitalizations remain in the Interior Health region.

With a huge backlog of postponed surgeries, Dix said it's now a challenge to prioritize who gets their surgeries first.

“As we restart surgeries, priorities are slightly different in the initial period. We have to continue to deal with urgent surgeries and the most urgent surgeries that are before us now,” Dix said.

“It's being driven by medical need to begin with, but the priority of hip and knee, the priority of dental surgery ... you're going to see that in the course of this year.

“By about June 15, we should be back to about 100 per cent capacity. Then we have to deal with the most urgent surgeries, surgeries that may have become urgent in that time, and then we've got to start reducing those lists again, and that's going to take some time ... The increasing of capacity – that's going to be happening over the next five or six months as we hire more people.”

Dix acknowledged that the cancellation of surgeries has had a “profound” impact on many British Columbians, and the province has since contacted close to 19,000 people about rescheduling surgeries.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the prioritization of rescheduling surgeries must take into account many factors.

“There's a balancing process between the types of surgeries that may require things like ICU care and you have to balance that out with the need to protect some of those resources in case we have a resurgence or an outbreak,” Dr. Henry said. “So I know there is a lot of very detailed considerations that went into the restart of the surgery planning, everything from PPE, to where outbreaks were, to how to make sure that we still have the capacity to respond and have surge capacity if we needed it.”



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