Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) will move into its second phase of resuming surgeries and start performing scheduled day procedures that were postponed throughout the past two years.
The Barrie hospital has thousands of surgeries to tackle that were set aside under the province’s orders as COVID-19 cases surged, but on Friday, the province announced it was lifting that directive that paused non-urgent surgeries at the peak of the Omicron wave.
The Ontario government gave the green light for hospitals to gradually resume procedures as it reports a “steady decline” in hospitalizations and ICU admissions related to COVID-19.
RVH chief of staff, Dr. Jeff Tyberg, said that would mean “things like taking out someone’s gall bladder at a scheduled time, some type of gynecologic surgery or some type of orthopedic surgery that patients have been waiting for, some of whom have been waiting for a long time.”
Starting Monday, RVH will have eight of its 11 operating rooms open, plus one trauma room.
The hospital had been restricted to four operating rooms plus one trauma room for surgeries, including those for cancer patients.
The added rooms will bring RVH up to 70 per cent of its 2019 volumes.
The hospital’s top doctor said he is unsure how long it will take to clear the backlog of roughly 7,000 surgeries, saying the situation is unprecedented.
“It’s clear that there’s going to be a long recovery period, and the province and Ontario Health are putting together a recovery plan,” said Tyberg.
“But there are, of course, limits to how much one can ramp up. We only have so many skilled staff. There are only so many anesthesiologists, surgeons, operating room nurses, anesthesia assistants, etcetera.”
Scheduled surgeries will also resume at Orillia’s Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital on Monday, with a backlog of approximately 1,000 to perform.
As of next week, an additional operating room will open, meaning three of five will be active.
“We know that with every week we’re not doing scheduled surgical care, there are approximately 100 cases, 80 to 100 cases that are deferred,” said Carmine Stumpo, the hospital’s president and CEO.
“When we look at cases from previous waves, including this wave, it’s approximately 1,000 cases that we need to make up in our restart of case.”
Stumpo noted the hospital has started reaching out to patients for surgeries as of next week. However, with so many surgeries to be done, both hospitals admitted, many would have to continue to wait.
“For the patients waiting for a surgery, one our apologies, our sincerest apologies for making you wait,” said Stumpo. “We know how important it is to you. Our teams know that, and we’re doing everything we can to get back online with these surgeries.”
The Orillia hospital reports a drop in admitted COVID-19 patients.
On Friday, Stumpo penned an open letter outlining the signs of optimism. However, he said that optimism must be taken with a grain of salt.
“We need to focus on the optimism and do everything we can to protect that optimism and the best way we can protect the optimism is to be cautious, is to take things slowly, to move one step at a time.”