Bluewater Health appeals for patience in clearing surgical backlog

Bluewater Health hospital in Sarnia. (Photo by BWH from Facebook)

Bluewater Health says it could take six months to clear a backlog of surgeries created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals were given the green light to start rebooking surgeries in late May after hundreds of procedures had been postponed due to capacity restrictions put in place in March.

Chief of Staff Dr. Mike Haddad said Bluewater Health is ahead of many of its peer hospitals with some looking at a year-and-a-half to catch up.

“I can’t give you an exact percentage yet (of how many surgeries have been rebooked). We look at the projected timeline to actually finish it, and it looks like our best guesstimate is by March of 2021 which is the end of the fiscal year. We’re hoping by then that we’ll be caught up.”

Dr. Haddad said surgeons’ offices are currently dealing with a significant increase in calls from patients asking when their procedures will be booked. He said it’s not necessary to call, patients will be notified directly.

“It’s not just first-come, first-served, they have to look at clinical issues as well,” he said. “For instance if it’s a hip replacement they have to look at how bad the hip is, how long it’s been going on for, and how long it can wait. Then, you look at the actual patient. Do they have any medical issues that need to be optimized or fixed before they even have an operation? We also have to look at our schedules and how many slots are available, and how long someone has been waiting for. It’s a very complicated system.”

Dr. Michel Haddad, Chief of Professional Staff, Bluewater Health, Adjunct Professor, Western University. Submitted photo.

Dr. Michel Haddad, Chief of Professional Staff, Bluewater Health.

The provincial government has mandated that hospitals reserve at least 10 per cent of beds for any potential surge in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Haddad said this further underlines the need to closely monitor surgery caseload so volumes and resources are not exceeded.

Bluewater Health President and CEO Mike Lapaine said in May that an estimated 1,600 patients were awaiting procedures ranging from relatively minor to major.