By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Elective surgeries at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance are back and expanded operating room hours are in the wings.
According to Lori Marshall, president and CEO of CKHA, outpatient and day surgeries, such as hernia repairs and some joint procedures, came back online May 25.
But how the hospital goes forward to clear a backlog of some 2,400 surgeries will depend on the organization’s soon-to-be released 2021-2024 strategic plan.
Decision making by the hospital will be aligned with findings by the Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team, Marshall explained, which is currently conducting a survey of patient health care.
In the end, Marshall said it all comes down to timing, with the length of surgery wait times marking how the hospital “measures our success.”
Part of the plan, she said, will likely include adding operating room hours on evenings or weekends and better optimization of existing operating rooms.
Specialized hires may be needed to cope with the expansion of hours as well.
Marshall said, the health of hospital staff is another factor that needs to be considered as services return as the pandemic has been “especially difficult” for hospital workers.
Staff members need time to heal and recoup, she noted, and take some time off.
Marshall said the hospital has been working hard to come up with ways to help staff cope with pandemic stress by making extra mental health programs and supports available.
Sustained wellness of employees is the goal, she added.
The fiscal health of the organization is another priority. As it stands the CKHA is ending the fiscal year with a $1.8-million surplus operating budget, but final funding from the province is still outstanding.
So far, the hospital has benefitted from additional supports to assist with COVID-19 to the tune of $8.6-million.
Marshall said it’s clear a period of recovery is needed and you “just can’t flip a switch” back to pre-pandemic levels of care.
The strategic plan will be unveiled at the organization’s annual general meeting June 24. That’s also the date that board chairperson Greg Aarssen will step down from his leadership role.
Last week’s elective surgery start-up came after the government rescinded an order made April 20 to cancel all non-elective surgeries across Ontario. The move was made in order to clear space in the event of an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Some out-of-town patients have had to be accommodated during the pandemic, Marshall said.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the hospital’s medicine unit is ongoing, however, Marshall officials are hopeful it will be resolved this week.