Staffing shortages at B.C.’s two largest health authorities have led to the postponement of hundreds of non-urgent surgeries and affected their ability to maintain high levels of health care.
The staffing issues at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health have been brought on by the Omicron variant, seasonal illnesses, recent snow days, and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recent VCH release.
“Healthcare workers have been on the front lines of care throughout the pandemic now for two years and are experiencing exhaustion and the same illness as the rest of the population,” VCH states.
To date, VCH has postponed 154 non-urgent elective surgeries over the past month due to a reduction in operating rooms. Similarly, Fraser Health has rescheduled 128 non-urgent elective surgeries in the last four weeks.
Staffing shortages have also had a pronounced effect on rural and remote sites, as these facilities and programs frequently operate with smaller teams, the release states.
“Sustaining full staffing continues to be a challenge across the region and makes it difficult to maintain the high levels of health care services in some rural communities, surgical capacity, and specialized programs,” VCH explains.
Despite this, VCH says there are no longer-term impacts to service delivery and that over the past several months, temporary measures have been adopted to address immediate requirements.
“COVID-19 vaccines are our best line of defense against the virus, including the Omicron variant,” the statement reads. “By following provincial public health guidelines and getting vaccinated, the public is supporting the healthcare system and frontline staff who remain committed to delivering safe and quality care to those who need it.”
VCH and Fraser Health Testing sites continue to record a significant demand for COVID-19 testing services. As such, VCH is asking residents to help preserve testing capacity for those at higher risk of COVID-19 and for those who live or work in higher-risk settings.
“Testing is not required for those who have mild symptoms and are fully vaccinated,” VCH states. “If sick, stay at home and away from others until you feel well enough to return to regular activities. Those with no symptoms of COVID-19 do not need a test.”