Northern Health resuming elective surgeries

Northern Health has begun calling patients to schedule elective surgeries that were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, the provincial government ordered all elective surgeries to be cancelled to free up capacity in the healthcare system to respond to the pandemic. Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said approximately 685 elective surgeries – including hip and knee replacements, dental surgeries and other non-urgent surgeries – had been cancelled.

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"We will be back to full surgical capacity as soon as we can," Collins said.

There are 10 surgical sites in the region, and how long it will take to clear the backlog of surgeries will depend on a number of factors including the availability of personal protective equipment, the number of surgeons and patients choosing to proceed, and whether there is a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the fall, Collins said.

Since March 16, approximately 1,200 urgent surgeries have been performed in the Northern Health region.

Starting on Tuesday, Northern Health officials began calling patients to book procedures and confirm if they are willing and able to move forward with the surgery. Patients will be rescheduled based on a priority determined by their surgeon.

"We recognize that some individuals may wish to continue to postpone their surgery at this time," a statement issued by Northern Health said. "Patients who require urgent, emergent and oncology-related surgeries will continue to be prioritized."

A telephone pre-admission screening process will be used to reduce the need for patients to come to hospitals for in-person visits prior to their procedures taking place.

Patients will be assessed 24 to 72 hours prior to their surgery, and screened for possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Surgeries will be scheduled to allow additional time for cleaning and infection control measures.

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