Ontario unveils plan to resume elective surgeries and procedures

TORONTO — The Ontario government has unveiled a plan for how the province will begin to safely resume scheduled surgeries and procedures. 

On March 15, the province began to slow down scheduled surgical and procedural work in order to create capacity for hospitals in case there was a massive surge in COVID-19 patients. 

While this directive is still in place, the Ministry of Health says it may be possible for hospitals to begin planning for the “gradual resumption” of surgeries and procedures that have been postponed. 

“Although Ontario may be very slowly gaining the upper hand in this pandemic, there is an ongoing risk of local, rolling mini-surges in either community or congregate settings,” the ministry said in a release on Thursday. 

The government said this new plan would allow for some surgeries and procedures to resume while the province also ensures there is capacity for any COVID-19 surge. 

The province said there are a number of factors to consider before going ahead with surgeries, including the safety of the patient and health-care workers and the therapeutic benefit of treatment against the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

The province has not announced a specific date for when surgeries and procedures can continue.

The government is recommending the following be considered before surgeries and procedures can restart:

  • Use the existing regional or sub-regional COVID-19 steering committee to provide oversight in partnership with an organizational (hospital) surgical and procedural oversite committee
  • Conduct a feasibility assessment at the hospital level and communicate results to regional leadership before increasing surgical or procedural activity
  • Attain a joint sign-off from both the regional and sub-regional COVID-steering committee and hospital and surgical and procedural oversight committee before and increase in surgical and procedural activity can be initiated
  • Review and re-conduct the feasibility assessment on a weekly basis
  • Follow a fair process for case prioritization that is grounded by a set of ethical principles as a part of the implementation plan
  • Consider how to leverage opportunities to redesign car

The cancellation of cancer and cardiac-related surgeries caused the greatest level of concern, as patients feared their conditions would worsen as they awaited their much-needed procedures. A model of the impact, prepared by researchers connected to the University Health Network, projected that 35 cardiac patients would die as a result of a postponed surgery.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said last week that cancer and cardiac surgeries “would be among the first” to return, along with hip and knee replacements and suggested that the province is working to create a “COVID-free” hospitals dedicated to performing urgently needed surgeries. 

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