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LETTER – What is the plan for those awaiting elective surgery?

Dear editor,

There are currently more than 90,000 people in B.C. waiting for elective surgeries.

The backlog of COVID-postponed treatments is expected to take up to two years to clear. Elective surgeries can include numerous health-impairing conditions. According to Johns Hopkins University, “an elective surgery does not always mean it is optional. It simply means that the surgery can be scheduled in advance.”

The question facing many people in B.C. now is “how far in advance?” Getting an answer to that is impossible, and a condition deemed to be elective can hardly merit the term if it impairs one’s life to the point where other health issues become apparent.

At North Island Hospital Comox Valley, there is, for example, a waiting list of almost 1,500 for cataract surgery, with no estimate of when patients will be treated who have already been waiting for six months. Even more concerning is the lack of any information on what is going to happen to elective surgeries when, as seems very likely, a second wave of COVID hits in the fall. The hospital has no information nor does Island Health. I’ve even emailed the CBC, John Horgan, Rachel Blaney, and Bonnie Henry. The only answer I got was from someone at Island Health who said that was all in the future and that elective surgeries would probably be delayed even more.

So what, if any, is the plan for the fall? Are the 90,000 expected to wait indefinitely? Is the expectation that some of them will become so impaired that they either die or move into long-term care, which appears to be pretty much a death sentence anyway? Is the idea to wait until COVID arrives then think about all these actual people with real health problems who have been de facto deemed less important than potential COVID patients?

I want a clear answer. I think 90,000 other people would as well.

Leith Stewart,


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