Kelowna General Hospital’s chief of orthopedic surgery says moving some minor surgeries to private clinics may be a solution to long wait times and cancellations seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Dr. Steven Krywulak, there are currently more than 1,000 patients on the waiting list for orthopedic surgery in Kelowna – more than a six-month wait for most.
He says orthopedic surgeries have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, taking the brunt of surgical cancellations.
“If you need orthopedic surgery, don’t hold your breath. You could be canceled on the day of the surgery,” says Krywulak. “As frustrated as we are, we can’t blame anyone.”
He’s not the only one discouraged by canceled surgeries. His colleagues and patients are also overwhelmed by last-minute changes. Surgeons in the city have had to send patients home after already taking time off and arranging post-operative accommodation.
Krywulak even had to send patients home after they had already changed into hospital gowns. He says the surgical cancellations are the result of understaffing.
The hospital is overwhelmed and staff are burning out, Krywulak says.
He says nurses are leaving the profession, feeling exhausted after nearly three years of working during a pandemic.
Nurses who are still working are often redeployed to more needed areas of the hospital, like the ICU, or are home, sick, or caring for a family member with COVID.
“The current pressures of COVID-19 have led to a staffing crisis that requires temporary emergency measures to maintain access to essential services,” said Interior Health President Susan Brown.
“Interior Health is postponing all elective surgeries as part of temporary service adjustments to enhance patient safety due to Omicron staffing issues related to COVID-19. Urgent and emergent surgical procedures are ongoing.
Krywulak says calling non-emergency surgeries “elective” suggests they are insignificant when in reality, many of his patients awaiting surgery are immobile and “paralyzed” by their injury.
He suggests that Interior Health use the city’s private surgical clinics to relieve hospitals.
Krywulak thinks the city’s orthopedic surgeons would be able to perform simple surgeries that don’t require hospitalization at private clinics. The change would be made at no cost to the patient, with health care covering the costs of the private clinic, he says.
This unique surgical model has been implemented in Vancouver and Victoria, according to Krywulak.
According to Interior Health, during later periods of the pandemic, when elective surgeries were postponed, the health authority was able to quickly recover the backlog, without the help of private clinics.
City of KelownaHospitals