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Hundreds of operations cancelled because of Covid-19

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Doctors were forced to cancel hundreds of non-emergency operations because of the recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Wesley Miller, the chief of staff at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said that elective surgery had to be postponed between March and May after Covid-19 cases soared.

Dr Miller added that an ageing population had also added extra strain on hospital services.

The BHB said 16 surgeries were postponed in March and it had to cancel all non-emergency operations from the start of April. There were more than 900 coronavirus cases on the island by the end of April.

Dr Miller said: “During the Covid-19 surges this year and last year, we have twice paused elective surgeries. This is a difficult decision every time.

“Pausing elective surgeries is a step in our escalation plan that ensures we are able to respond.

“This year, elective surgeries were paused for about six weeks from March 30 to mid-May.”

BHB could not supply exact figures for the number of operations cancelled, but a King Edward VII Memorial Hospital spokeswoman said it carried out about 50 elective operations a month.

The spokeswoman added that around 540 surgeries a month were carried on outpatients who did not need a hospital – but the number was cut at the height of the last outbreak.

She said: “At the highest point of the surge, we had 45 patients in hospital with Covid-19, and between March 19 to May 19, we had 118 Covid-19 admissions in total, 27 of whom needed critical care.

“We had planned for a surge, and pausing elective surgeries helped us cope as we need the surgical beds, staff and space.

“The overflow area for ICU is in the surgical area, and surgical nurses are cross trained in critical care.”

But Dr Miller emphasised that, although non-essential surgery – such as hip and knee replacements – had to be sidelined, urgent procedures were not affected by the pandemic.

He said: “We continued throughout to undertake many urgent and emergency surgeries. There were 295 emergency surgeries carried in April during the surge, while no elective procedures took place.

“In May, there were 15 elective same-day admission surgeries that required a hospital stay afterwards, and there were zero cancellations due to beds.

“In total 542 surgeries – inclusive of same day admission, emergency and outpatient procedures – were undertaken in May.”

Dr Miller said he understood the frustration of patients when their operation was cancelled – particularly if the problem caused them pain.

He said: “BHB is very sorry when someone has a surgery postponed.

“Usually if a surgery is postponed due to a bed capacity issue, we will reschedule as soon as possible.

“This will depend on the surgeon’s schedules and it can be as fast as 24 hours, and is usually within four weeks.”

Dr Miller added: “The pandemic has been an added pressure on top of the usual issues of having an ageing population that needs hospital care and many of whom have more than one illness.

“Covid-19 pressures wax and wane, but the population demographics and the impact on the healthcare system remain the same.

“This means even when the numbers of Covid-19 patients are low, we will still have pressure on beds, and we must continue to work on improving the flow of patients – both by reducing the need for hospitalisations through better management of illnesses in the community and also improving the discharge process and support at the end of a hospital stay.”

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Published June 23, 2021 at 8:05 am (Updated June 23, 2021 at 8:05 am)

Hundreds of operations cancelled because of Covid-19

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