Surgical staff in action at an operating room at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Surgical staff in action at an operating room at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Surgery shuffle in Surrey a ‘charade’

No net gain in ORs yet with new outpatient hospital

Anesthesiologists are accusing Fraser Health of playing “musical operating rooms” by opening brand new ORs at the new $237-million Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre while simultaneously closing other ORs at nearby Surrey Memorial Hospital.

An ongoing shortage of anesthesiologists has kept the region’s hospitals from opening more ORs and they continue to wrestle with lengthy backlogs for elective surgeries.

Only two of the six new ORs in the just-opened outpatient hospital are being used initially and they are in effect transferred from SMH, which drops from 10 staffed ORs (out of 13 available) to eight.

That triples the number of empty ORs sitting unused in Surrey from three to nine, according to Dr. Roland Orfaly, spokesperson for B.C.’s Coalition of Anesthesiologists for Change.

“The opening of ORs at the Jim Pattison Centre is just a charade to protect the reputation of the politicians,” Orfaly said, calling the empty ORs expensive storage rooms.

“In terms of dealing with the backlog of patients waiting for surgery, all those capital dollars will have no effect until B.C. improves its ability to recruit and retain more anesthesiologists.”

He said the failure to recruit more staff means there’s no net improvement in surgery at the two facilities, and possibly a reduction because the Jim Pattison ORs are now available only for day surgery, rather than the more urgent cases those staff sometimes treated at SMH.

“There’s now less access for major surgery than there was before,” said Orfaly, who lives in Surrey and works at Royal Columbian Hospital.

Fraser Health officials say the plan all along has been to initially transfer surgical staff, anesthesiologists and patients to the outpatient hospital from SMH, helping decongest the main hospital.

Dr. Peter Blair, the region’s program medical director for surgery, confirmed there is no net increase in surgical capacity for now – due to the shortage of anesthesiologists.

“There will be when we get all the ORs running,” he said.

Recruitment efforts continue, he said, adding Fraser Health has just hired one new anesthesiologist to start in July and hopes to recruit three more.

If successful, two would go to Royal Columbian Hospital while another two would allow Fraser Health to start running four ORs at the Surrey outpatient hospital starting this fall.

Blair stressed Fraser Health has all the money it needs to operate the Jim Pattison outpatient centre as planned.

He said the health authority has no control over the number of anesthesiologists who opt to work in the region, noting they are paid through the Medical Services Plan.

The anesthesiologists agree Fraser Health’s hands are tied.

They say the province needs to spend more on their pay and supports in order to recruit more anaesthesiologists, ease the shortage and open more ORs.

Their counterparts in some other parts of Canada are paid twice as much, Orfaly said.

“When Fraser Health tries to recruit, the response is ‘I’m not moving to B.C. and taking a 50-per-cent pay cut,'” Orfaly said. “If government can’t address that underlying problem, this is going to continue.”

They also say the government could hire anesthesia assistants to help with the workload and make ORs run more efficiently.

Orfaly’s outspoken coalition of anesthesiologists are mostly also members of the broader B.C. Anesthesiology Society, but feel it has been too restrained in criticizing the provincial government.

Orfaly predicts more OR closures at hospitals across the region this summer, causing more cancelled surgeries and lengthening waits for treatment.

“There will be hundreds of OR slates cancelled across Fraser Health this summer due to the anesthesiologist shortage, meaning thousands of surgeries,” he predicted.

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)
Abbotsford man starts petition, saying lead shot is killing waterfowl in Judson Lake and beyond

Farmer Kevin Sinclair says local lake is ‘poster child’ for swans’ deaths from lead poisoning

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read