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NS claims progress in reducing surgical wait times

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The Nova Scotia government is claiming progress on its promise to reduce wait times for surgical procedures based on an almost 1,900 increase in the number of operations completed during the 2022-23 fiscal year, compared to 2019-20.

The arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020 dramatically reduced the number of surgeries and other medical procedures that were done in the province, and subsequent Omicron and Delta variants also triggered surgical slowdowns.

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson called the increase in the number of surgeries “a very positive sign” on Friday.

“We know there’s still more to do but we’re so grateful and proud of the work that the surgical teams across the province have done, despite some of the challenges they’ve been facing,” said Thompson. “So the investments that we have [made] in surgery, as well as across the system are having an impact.

“I’m certainly pleased with the progress we’ve made and I believe that that momentum will continue.”

Although more operations are happening, there are still more than 20,000 Nova Scotians waiting for surgeries — and they continue to wait for months.

Pre-pandemic surgery numbers

But Thompson said that waiting time has decreased slightly to about 273 days, down from 290 days a year ago.

According to Nova Scotia Health’s weekly report on completed surgeries, so far this year there have been 254 more operations performed in the province, than during the same 19-week period in 2019. A total of 29,858 operations have been completed this year. That’s roughly on par with the number done before the pandemic.

The Houston government has talked about extending operating room hours to overnight and on weekends but that has only happened in exceptional cases. Hospitals are doing more surgeries that don’t require a hospital stay but Thompson said it’s not always easy to ramp up surgeries.

“Bed capacity is important, staffing is important,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a subspecialty in our health-care system so we need specialized nursing care, as well as surgeons and anesthetists.”