Area hospitals are planning for a restart of procedures and surgeries, but the president and CEO of Guelph General Hospital says that restart needs to be balanced against a possible new wave of COVID-19 cases.
All but the most urgent scheduled surgeries and procedures were paused in March locally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand it must be very difficult for patients waiting for surgeries,” said Marianne Walker, president and CEO of Guelph General Hospital, when reached by phone Tuesday. “They have actually been very patient and very supportive of the hospital.”
Ramping down surgeries and procedures in March was a little easier than now working toward bringing them back, said Walker.
“Why this is complex is because we need to balance the increase in surgical services and non-urgent procedures. At the same time we need to make sure we have enough capacity if there was any surge in COVID-19 patients, including looking carefully at what is going on in our long term care homes and retirement homes,” she said.
Hospitals in the Waterloo Wellington area are collaborating to build a framework for the gradual resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures. Each hospital is developing its own plan, as well as committing to working together with the other hospitals in the region.
“Our team is really doing the deep dive now, looking at how many (surgeries) have been cancelled, what is our waitlist like?” said Walker.
Factors being considered in the framework include the current capacity to care for patients, having adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, having adequate supplies of drugs for surgeries, as well as the ability to take activity down quickly should there be a re-emergence of multiple cases of COVID-19 positive patients.
“One of the important considerations is the current local status of COVID-19,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, acting Medical Officer of Health for Waterloo Region in a press release. “As a region that continues to see community cases, and continues to manage outbreaks in congregate care settings, we will be monitoring the situation closely and working with hospitals to determine when it will be safe to proceed.”
Wang added: “Though we feel things are stabilizing, our gains are still precarious and COVID-19 is still a significant threat. The number of cases and outbreaks can rise again very quickly if we are not careful.”
Walker said the hospitals in Waterloo Wellington meet every day to discuss ways to support one another and to ensure all patients within the region are cared for.
“We have been doing that since the pandemic started,” said Walker.
Guelph General Hospital has also been working with the local Ontario Health Team partners, including Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, to ensure as services at the hospital are increased there is primary care and home care available for those patients.
“It’s really working together to ensure that they are getting what they require, not just when they come into the hospital, but when they are actually discharged,” said Walker.
The ramp-up to more elective surgeries is expected to take many weeks. Patients will be contacted and do not need to reach out to their doctor’s office about rescheduling procedures.