H1N1 forces record number of surgery cancellations at Ottawa Hospital

By Mark Brownlee

Photo Credit: Kim Mackrael

The Ottawa Hospital has been forced to postpone more elective surgeries already this November than any other one-month period on record. The increase in H1N1-related hospital admissions has contributed to the postponement of 143 elective surgeries this month.

According to Ottawa Public Health, 164 residents of the Ottawa area were admitted to hospital since September with H1N1. As of Monday, the Ottawa Hospital had 11 confirmed cases of H1N1.

Allison Neill, director of public affairs at the Ottawa Hospital, said the surgeries were cancelled because of a shortage in the number of beds available at the hospital. H1N1 admissions added to the strain the hospital was already experiencing because of a lack of long-term care facility space.

“That patient who comes to emergency and needs to be admitted to hospital has to take priority for obvious reasons,” said Neill.

But she added that the challenge with postponing elective surgery is that the health of the patient who is waiting might suffer.

“In some cases their situation worsens so then they become a little more urgent than elective,” Neill said. “So obviously we want to get back to doing the business that we do as soon as we can.”

Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s chief medical officer of health, said last week that H1N1 is still a major health threat and should continue to be the main focus for health care professionals.

“In terms of the scaling back it’s still too soon,” he said.

“It is something that obviously we would all prefer not to have to deal with but it is a reality and hospitals deal with this on a regular basis and will work to catch up as things reduce. Certainly the more people that are immunized the sooner we get the vaccine out there and the sooner we’ll get over the hump.”

The Ottawa Hospital will reschedule postponed surgeries at some point, but officials don’t yet know when.

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