Greater Victoria will have four empty ORs this fall, surgeries postponed for 160 people

Greater Victoria will have four empty ORs this fall, surgeries postponed for 160 people

Both of Victoria’s main hospitals are not running their operation rooms (ORs) at full capacity this fall because of a lack of specialized nurses.

“Specialized nursing skills are in high demand,” Kathy MacNeil, CEO of Island Health, told CHEK News.

Nurses who work in the OR require further education and Island Health doesn’t have enough of them to keep their ORs running at capacity.

As a result, from Sept. 5 to Oct. 27, Royal Jubilee’s OR will be operating at 75 per cent. Nine of their total 12 ORs will be operational.

Victoria General Hospital is able to open nine of its total 10 ORs for the same time period, which is up one OR from the summer/spring calendar where eight ORs were just recently open.

“At Jubilee, many of the units are running at a 50 per cent capacity of nurses, meaning they have about 50 per cent of their line empty. So that’s impacting all areas,” said Adriane Gear, president of the BC Nurses Union (BCNU).

As a whole, Island Health says the shutdowns at Royal Jubilee are affecting 160 people whose surgery dates will be rescheduled.

“Closures are relatively common. But it’s the frequency and kind of magnitude of them that’s changed,” said Tye Spicer with Rebalance MD, a collective of orthopedic surgeons in the Greater Victoria area.

RELATED: Changes coming to two Island Health ERs in face of staffing shortage

Spicer says the rolling closures are leaving surgeons sidelined and a backlog of patients that’s only building.

“If you’ve been waiting for an extended period of time for your surgery, you get notice of another cancellation, some people are looking for alternatives. We’re seeing more and more of that,” said Spicer, indicating an increasing number of frustrated patients are turning to private health care to get the surgery they need.

“The status quo for orthopedics is no longer tenable locally, and probably beyond,” he said.

It’s a situation not working for nurses either.

“It’s province-wide, there are not enough nurses to deliver care to patients,” said Gear.

BCNU says they will be pushing the province to implement the nurse ratios they previously promised.

Island Health says they’re currently on a hiring blitz for nurses, but considering all health authorities are under the same collective agreement and therefore pay, it’s proven difficult to recruit nurses to Victoria considering the cost of living.

“There’s no question, Victoria is the third most expensive city to live in so it makes it difficult to recruit,” said MacNeil.

Both BCNU, Island Health, and Rebalance are calling for “innovative ideas” to solve the current issues in the health-care system.

Rebalance suggested day surgeries to be performed outside ambulatory hospitals. BCNU said they’d be open to whatever keeps care in the current public health system.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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