As of the week of December 3rd, the wait list for various elective procedures at the Lloydminster Hospital was 650. It usually sits closer to 450 pre-pandemic, says Dr. Joan Wheat-Hozack, co-lead for the department of surgery in the Saskatchewan northwest region.
As redeployed staff return to their home facilities, Wheat-Hozack notes the wait list has not grown as significantly as other places in the province because they were able to keep their doors open and operations running more normally than anywhere else, as of May 2020.
She says they have been lucky throughout the pandemic to keep surgical services operating nearly at full capacity.
“The SHA had mandated a slowdown in our surgical services to allow for staff redeployment in the fourth wave, but thankfully that is starting to settle out. So we are back up to our usual 100 per cent surgical capacity in Lloydminster.”
During the redeployment, the hospital was down to one operating theatre, but is now back to two operating rooms.
With the province announcing plans this week to cut the backlog, Wheat-Hozack says there’s about 40,000 patients overall with various procedures on the waitlist, which means it could take about three years to reduce the backlog.
She says with staff back, they are functioning well as they tackle the various elective procedures comprising things like hip and knee replacements, ear, nose and throat procedures, tonsillectomies and cataracts, but it will take some creative problem solving to eat away at the backlog.
“There’s not a lot of room to do more in Lloydminster as we are already utilizing our limited O.R. space to pretty much the maximum. So other ideas have been brain-stormed, including potentially doing some surgeries on Saturdays.”
Wheat-Hozack says it will require more staff if they tackle the backlog on the weekends.
She says they have ramped up as they are utilizing a third room for planned C-sections, and as well bringing in the ophthalmologist twice a week instead of once.
Wheat-Hozack adds as they are trying to catch up, they would like to avoid a fifth wave of the COVID pandemic.
“So I would continue to encourage people to please, please get vaccinated. Get your first dose; your second dose; your booster shot. So that we don’t have to slow down and get even further behind again.”