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Richmond Hospital resuming surgeries

Richmond Hospital is resuming surgeries and managing wait lists.

Dr. Dean Chittock, vice-president medicine, quality and safety at Vancouver Coastal Health, has been spearheading the resumption of surgery at Richmond Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thus far, only urgent surgeries have been taking place, and elective surgeries have been delayed to redeploy staff to care for COVID-19 patients. Chittock says under normal circumstances, about 40 per cent of all surgeries are urgent.

At the height of the pandemic, only two of the seven operating rooms at Richmond Hospital were in use. This week, five are open.

Typically, Richmond Hospital performs about 150 surgeries each week. In April, that number dropped to 55 per week.

Chittock says Richmond Hospital aims to be up to full operating room capacity within two to three weeks. 

Prior to the pandemic, Chittock says Richmond Hospital was one of the best performers in the region in terms of wait lists, at about 20 per cent shorter than benchmark. Now, staff are phoning every patient on a wait list. Patients are asked if they still want surgery, and reassured that their spot on the wait list has been preserved. Of all patients asked, fewer than one per cent cancelled their surgery due to fears around COVID-19.

As Richmond Hospital starts to catch up on delayed surgeries, staff also wants to preserve capacity to be prepared for a second wave. 

“We are walking a fine line, as we know we still have cases in the community,” Chittock said.

Richmond Hospital aims to get up to 85 per cent of normal surgical capacity, reserving the remaining 15 per cent for COVID-19 patients in need.

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