More people in Saskatchewan died waiting for surgery during COVID-19 than before: data

Government data shows nearly 500 patients in Saskatchewan have died while waiting for surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 100 more than before patients saddled the health care system.

During a provincial emergency operations center briefing in November, government officials said the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) postponed nearly 26,000 surgeries between March 15, 2020 and October 9, 2021, when the health care system was grappling with the pandemic.

Government data, obtained using a Freedom of Information request, indicates that 479 waiting-list surgeries were canceled during the same period because patients waiting for procedures died.

379 died between March 15, 2018 and October 9, 2019, before the pandemic began.

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The note accompanying the data indicates that cancellation due to death does not necessarily mean the death of the patient because he did not undergo surgery. It says 63 percent of patients who died between 2018 and 2019 and 57 percent of patients between dates 2020 and 2021 were waiting for cataract surgery or a hip and/or knee replacement, which the note states are nonfatal cases.

That means 141 people died waiting for surgery in the previous period and 206 during the pandemic.

Dr. Dennis Kindle, a health policy advisor, said many factors could contribute to the deaths.

But he said there was “absolutely no doubt that some of the approximately 100 additional deaths were caused by a delay in surgery,” although he added that it was difficult to know the exact number.

Kendall explained that having surgery on a waiting list doesn’t mean the procedure isn’t necessary, it just means it’s not an emergency — like when someone suffers life-threatening injuries in a car accident and medical staff rushes to their rescue. life.

Some of the waiting-listed surgeries may be directed to quality-of-life issues, such as cataract replacement, but many are needed to keep the person alive.

Using kidney transplants as an example, Kindle said anyone can live after having dialysis three times a week, but that there comes a point when the surgery becomes lifesaving.

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There is no doubt, Kendall said, that patients waiting for a transplant are dying waiting for them.

He said, “(They) would have done a lot better if they got the transplant.

“It’s not that you die that week. It’s just that you use dialysis longer.”

That’s what scares Jessica Bailey.

Her kidneys failed – and she almost failed. She said doctors told her her remaining kidney function was less than one percent.

The CEO of SHA said it could take a year and a half for orthopedic surgeries to resume. A patient in desperate need of a kidney says she wouldn’t be alive if she had to wait that long.

Introduction by Melanie Bailey

She was booked for surgery last September but the SHA canceled it shortly after it was confirmed, in order to reassign staff to deal with crowded intensive care units and emergency rooms (ERs) struggling with infected variable delta patients.

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She described an additional 100 deaths as “a very harsh number”.

“The odds are not in my favour,” she told Global News.

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The leader of the Saskatchewan National Democratic Party, Ryan Milley, said stronger action by the government could have prevented some of the deaths.

“The prime minister stopped the summer, ignored the modeling that showed we were about to face a killer delta wave and canceled all public health measures he could take,” Milley said in an interview.

“As a result, we saw the worst fourth wave in the entire country.”

Milley called for a plan to protect the health care system, saying the county government needed to do everything it could to protect hospitals and other services, such as cancer screening.

Prime Minister Scott Moe announced, Wednesday, that the government is extending existing public health measures, which include mandatory masks, vaccine passports and mandatory isolation of those infected.

He also stated that he would not impose restrictions on aggregation, saying that evidence from other jurisdictions shows that it does not prevent the highly prevalent Omicron variant from spreading.

Kindle said policies that limit interactions between people will help prevent the spread of the virus, reducing the burden on the health care system.

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Global News requested an interview or comment from Health Secretary Paul Merriman.

The spokesperson’s response did not address the deaths.

“Services that were downgraded began to resume normal levels in early November and continued to increase throughout the month,” Executive Board Media Relations Director Matthew Glover wrote.

“Then in early December, we announced a plan to start addressing the backlog that had built up during the pandemic.”

The response included a link to the press release.

The government’s plan includes increasing intensive care unit capacity across the county by expanding operating room hours and increasing utilization of regional surgery sites and private clinics. The statement says it will increase the number of permanent intensive care beds in the province, from 79 to 110, and increase the number of nurses.

The most important factor, Kindle said, is the number of employees available, because “the system is running at overburdened capacity at the best of times.”

“You don’t want people to pay a lot of people to stand aside and do nothing, so we kind of operate the health care system in a way that we live every day, but we don’t ‘have a lot of reserve (capacity),'” he said.

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He also said he saw no problem with using private clinics, as long as patients couldn’t push their way to the front of the line, which he said would be ethically wrong.

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Going forward, Kendall said the government needs to investigate the full implications of slowing down surgery, not only to determine the number of additional deaths caused by the delay but also to see how many people are waiting for procedures.

The delay has made the waiting list longer, but it has also led to a decline in other medical services, meaning some people may need surgery but not yet have access to the services they need to find out.

“I am aware that some people have gotten sick personally and should have had an MRI or CT scan very urgently,” he said.

He told Global News that they are now essentially on the waiting list to get to the waiting list.

Billy in this case.

She had surgery recently, but it wasn’t the one she was hoping for.

The tube through which you receive dialysis is not working properly, so I had surgery to replace it.

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The operation was only supposed to take a day but there were complications.

“They hit an artery and about three liters of blood rushed into my abdominal wall,” she said.

She spent five weeks in the hospital recovering.

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This gave her a first-hand look at how busy the staff are and how overwhelmed the healthcare system is currently.

She now needs to recover more in order to be healthy enough to be added to the transplant list again.

She is in constant contact with the transplant staff and said the nurses have just been redeployed to the kidney transplant program.

“This was already a month behind the schedule in terms of … what the government says they’re doing and what they’re actually doing,” she said.

Bailey said she supports the government imposing restrictions on gatherings because it would ease the burden on health care workers.

She also said that SHA needed to perform surgeries faster.

“Maybe the government should look for more help if this crisis is to continue,” she told Global News.

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“The action has to happen sooner rather than later because I’m on my bitter end here.”

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