‘I’m waiting by the phone’: B.C. patients face painful wait for surgeries cancelled for COVID-19

As a nurse, Alysa Stephens knows just how important preparing B.C.’s hospitals for a possible wave of COVID-19 infections is.

But as a patient, she’s frustrated.

Stephens has been sidelined from her job by an injury that’s left her with compressed nerves under her neck.

The Langley resident is grappling with numbness and pain, and has been told without surgery soon, she could see permanent damage.

That operation was just weeks away when the province moved on March 18 to cancel about 11,000 scheduled surgeries to free up beds in the province’s hospitals.

“I cried. I did. Very hard,” she told Global News.

“It’s hard because as a nurse I know the importance of everything and why things are being done, but on the other hand, I’m not alone in this, being so close to having a surgery that will hopefully give me my quality of life back and allow me to get back to work, it’s just stripped right from under you.”

The move to cancel surgeries has emptied about a third of acute care beds in the province.

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As of Monday, there were more than 4,800 vacant beds in B.C. hospitals and 137 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

“Its so early in the days for this plan that its too set anything in stone,” she said.

The province is turning to the False Creek Surgical Centre, a private health-care facility, as one way to try and clear the backlog.

Clearpoint Health Network CFO Sid Sharma says the facility has three operating rooms, along with other advantages.

“We can work six days a week, we’re not limited to office hours,” he said. “Even at a conservative end, we can look at 3,000, 3,500 day surgeries a year.”

The Fraser Institute, a long-time advocate of for-profit health care, argues once the pandemic eases the province should allow people who can pay for faster surgeries to have them — thus taking pressure off the public system.

As for Stephens, she doesn’t care where the care comes, just as long as it comes as soon as possible.

“I need this surgery. I’d be willing to pay for it if I had to,” she said.

“Every day I’m waiting by the phone to get that phone call to say we can go ahead with it.”

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