By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
As restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to lighten, institutions such as Lakeridge Health Oshawa are performing more elective surgeries.
The provincial government is now allowing hospitals to perform more elective surgeries, and Lakeridge Health Oshawa Chief of Surgery Dr. John Dickie tells The Oshawa Express everything is “so far, so good” as they begin to open back up.
“We’re doing this in a very well planned, and graduated way, so we’re hoping that there are no surprises,” he says.
Dickie believes the main issues lie in how effectively they can ramp up from an “operational perspective,” and making sure they can continue to prioritize cases properly.
He also hopes they can maintain the necessary resources, as well as the safety net they need to continue working at the present level.
“So far all of it has gone well, and we’re quite confident that things have gone as planned,” he says.
Dickie says the hospital still remains at lower than normal capacity, and as long as they’re at less than normal volumes, they will keep concentrating on higher priority cases.
“We’re still concentrating on what we call ‘time sensitive cases,’” he explains, “whether those are cancers or not cancers.”
Over the last couple of weeks, Dickie says the hospital has broadened its scope a bit to include elective cases that can be done “within the constraints of those higher priority volumes.”
This includes cataract cases, and joint replacements, which wouldn’t normally be considered as time-sensitive as other surgeries.
With surgeries opening up, Dickie says they are confident they’ve been able to keep up “for the most part” with their time sensitive cases, but there is a “significant backlog” of elective surgeries.
“What that backlog is, is sort of evolving, but it’s in the thousands. These are cases that were deferred during our steep ramp down which occurred over March, April, and May, where we were not doing any cases at all,” he explains.
He adds the three month span is a “very long period of time” to not be performing elective surgeries. Every week that went by, he says the backlog of cases continued to grow.
However, Dickie says they need to address them when it is safe to do so, and the hospital has the resources available.
Dickie says there are a number of precautions being taken that extend across the hospital.
“On the ground, we need to make sure that we have proper resources… like proper personal protective equipment for providers, and, in fact, for patients,” he says.
He notes they also need to make sure the hospital has the necessary medications, as there has been a shortage lately.
“[Medication shortages] have been a general problem that has been worse during the pandemic,” he says.
In the end, Dickie says they need to be prepared for the potential “second wave” of COVID-19 cases.
“We need to make sure that we maintain and preserve some hospital capacity, patient capacity, and ICU capacity should that happen,” he says. “We need to be prepared to quite quickly ramp down and open up that capacity.”
Dickie says there is a “graduated plan” as to when the hospital will open up to even more surgeries.
“When the province mandated that we cease elective activity, we briefly ramped down to basically life-and-limb surgery only,” he says.
That lasted about two weeks before the hospital increased capacity to 20 per cent to allow for time sensitive cases. Then, the hospital went to just under 60 per cent capacity in early June, and they plan to stay there until the end of the summer.
“Then we’re hoping… that in mid-August we ramp up further, and then we hope to be back up to 100 per cent capacity… in mid-September,” he says.