Elective surgeries postponed due to COVID-19

As hospitals prepare for COVID-19, here's how you could be affected.

We’ll continue updating this page with resources and information as new details emerge on how Canadian leaders and businesses are responding to COVID-19.

In provinces like British Columbia and Ontario, all non-urgent surgeries are being postponed indefinitely as hospitals focus on preparing for coronavirus patients and increasing their medical supply.

“We’re expecting such an influx of patients that patients who do not require the ICU, will require an inpatient bed, perhaps on a surgical ward. By cancelling elective surgeries we’re creating capacity for those patients,” said Dr. Michael Warner, Medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital.

Both Ontario and BC have issued official recommendations to cancel all elective surgeries to prepare for the pandemic:

  • “The province is requesting that all hospitals further implement pandemic plans by carefully ramping down elective surgeries and other non-emergent clinical activities,” said Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott.
  • “Hospitals will only undertake urgent and emergency procedures and will postpone all non-urgent, scheduled surgeries,” said BC’s Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Of course, if you’re one of the thousands of Canadians currently awaiting elective surgery, it’s likely you’ll have questions about whether your procedure is considered urgent and if it’ll actually go ahead. Here, we’ve done our best to help.

What are of elective surgeries?

Elective surgeries aren’t necessarily optional, but rather are scheduled in advance because they’re considered “non-urgent,” and can include cancer-related procedures or operations to address blood vessel problems.

Is my surgery an elective surgery?

The category of your surgery is largely decided by industry guidelines, as well as your attending medical professional. Your clinical need, overall level of health and the procedure being performed will all be factored into the decision. That means you could be having the same surgery as someone else, but you could fall into a different category to them.

Below is lists some examples of common surgeries that could be considered “elective”.

  • Breast lump excision or biopsy
  • Mastectomy
  • Neonatal surgery
  • Amputation of a limb
  • Laryngectomy
  • Prostate biopsy
  • Removal of urinary tract stones
  • Dialysis access surgery
  • Nerve decompression
  • Eye examinations under anaesthesia
  • Craniotomy for unruptured aneurysm
  • Nerve decompression of spinal cord
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting
  • Heart valve replacement
  • Total hip or knee replacement
  • Breast reconstruction or reduction
  • Tonsil removal
  • Varicose veins treatment
  • Cleft lip and palate repair
  • Cranioplasty
  • Rhinoplasty

If you’re unsure which category your surgery falls into, you should contact your doctor. They will be able to confirm whether your procedure has been postponed or if it is likely to go ahead as scheduled.

When will my surgery be rescheduled?

Unfortunately, the provinces taking these measures haven’t put a timeline on how long elective surgeries will be postponed for. This means if your procedure has been cancelled, it’s unlikely to be rescheduled in the near future.

We understand this news will be upsetting to a lot of people, but it’s safer to stay at home right now, and it means hospitals will be better prepared when your surgery does go ahead.

What if my condition gets worse?

If your condition gets worse, and your surgery becomes more essential, there’s a chance your procedure will be rearranged.

If you’re waiting for surgery, make sure to stay in regular contact with your GP. They’ll help keep you fit and healthy so you’re ready for the surgery when it is rearranged, and they’ll make contact with the hospital if there are any changes in your condition while you’re waiting.

If you have any medical questions or concerns, you should always speak to your doctor.

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