By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative
Although COVID-19 caused a significant drop in surgeries at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) over the past year, officials hope a new operating room will help clear the backlog.
According to CKHA president and CEO Lori Marshall, there were 2,000 fewer surgeries performed at the alliance in 2020 compared to the previous year.
From April 1, 2019 to Feb. 28, 2020, a total of 6,486 elective surgeries were performed, but from April 1, 2020 to Feb. 18, 2021 only 4,485 elective procedures were completed, marking a 30 per cent drop from the previous year.
The first wave of the pandemic, a planned hospital slow down to accommodate the installation new technology, and a re-direction of surgical staff to the intensive care unit are the reasons for the slowdown, Marshall says.
The hospital is now looking at ways to catch up.
“We do need to put a focus towards surgical renewal,” Marshall said in a recent media conference.
The new surgical unit will bring the facility’s operating room complement to eight. It’s expected to open soon and will be geared primarily to urological surgery, a service added at CKHA last summer.
Marshall says the hospital is actively recruiting for the new OR, as anaesthesiologists and highly trained surgical nurses are needed.
Other strategies will be examined, Marshall says, including adding more outpatient and day surgeries.
Some of the procedures backlogged include orthopaedic surgery, such as hip and knee replacements; cataract surgery and other general surgeries such as hernias.
Another expansion in the works is going well. The new power plant at the Sydenham Campus in Wallaceburg is on track with expected completion in October.
Hospital board chairman Greg Aarssen says it paves the way for further enhancements at the North Kent facility at one time was threatened with permanent closure.
Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is also reporting a balanced budget for the past fiscal year.
CKHA Chief Financial Officer Aaron Ryan says the province has recently issued two separate funding letters to the hospital to cover lost revenues brought on by the pandemic.
Ryan says the amount of money the province has promised is currently embargoed by the Ministry of Health.
• The Thamesville Herald