Some postponed surgeries could happen as early as next week as Manitoba COVID-19 hospitalizations stabilize

Some surgeries postponed during the pandemic to ease the burden on Manitoba’s strained health-care system will be rescheduled starting next week as the province’s COVID-19 hospitalizations begin to stabilize.

The 11-week slowdown that saw nearly 6,000 elective procedures delayed was “like nothing that we’ve actually ever seen prior to this” in the health-care system, said Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa.

But it was necessary to free up health-care capacity for an influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations, she said.

“We are feeling cautiously optimistic,” Siragusa said at a Friday news conference. “We are in a much better spot than we were weeks or months ago.”

As of Friday, there were 315 COVID-19 patients in Manitoba’s hospitals, down from a peak of 398.

Starting Monday, roughly 60 surgeries will be rescheduled every week at four sites in Winnipeg: the Misericordia Health Centre, Concordia Hospital, the Pan Am Clinic and the Health Sciences Centre, the province said in a news release later Friday.

Procedures where significant waiting lists have developed will be addressed first. That list includes ear, nose and throat surgeries, along with orthopedic, retinal, vascular and renal procedures, the release said.

Siragusa said Manitoba needs to take a cautious approach to slowly rescheduling non-urgent procedures as long as the province’s COVID-19 numbers allow.

“This is not a return to normal, but it is a positive step in the right direction,” she said. 

“Our plan is to gradually increase the surgical procedures happening, but also at the same time watch very closely what’s happening with the active case counts, the number of contacts and the number of hospital admissions.”

The most urgent cases will be rescheduled first, and consideration will also be given to how long each patient has been waiting for their procedure, the release said. Patients will be contacted directly to reschedule their appointments.

Surgeries and endoscopies are expected to start up again as soon as next week in Swan River, Dauphin, Neepawa, Minnedosa and Brandon, the release said, with planning underway to also increase surgeries at sites in the Northern and Southern health regions.

Siragusa said nine surgical staff are being brought back to their regular jobs to help with resumed surgeries after being deployed to other areas of the health-care system.