Update on WRH’s Challenges to Restore Surgery Capacity to Pre-COVID Levels

WINDSOR – Windsor Regional Hospital wants to continue its ongoing public communication by providing an update to the community regarding a continued backlog of surgical procedures and our challenges in addressing the issue.

Please note that although the backlog at WRH has been reduced – as of May 19th, 2022, the backlog of non-urgent and non-emergency surgeries totaled 4,020, which is lower than the pre-COVID, November 2019 backlog of 6,370 – WRH is still not back to pre COVID-19 operating room capacity.

Many efforts have been implemented to reduce this backlog including improved operational efficiency, an increase in same-day joint procedures and move of cataracts and other eye procedures to the community early on in the pandemic. Additionally, WRH’s total staff compliment includes a 10% increase in frontline staff providing direct patient care (364 additional staff, now totaling 4158 staff as of May 2, 2022, up from 3794 in February 2020). We have additional clinical staffing resources and we continue to look to add where possible, while competing with our hospital peers throughout the province for additional hires along with the United States.

At the same time, WRH has added 35 additional medical/surgical beds with financial support from the government of Ontario and WRH is operating a further 18 medical/surgical beds (total 53 additional beds) and working with the government for more permanent funding to continue these beds.

However, WRH continues to face challenges that impact our ability to ramp up surgical volumes to pre-COVID levels. Currently WRH bed capacity is limited – hovering at or over the 100% mark for the past several weeks at both campuses. Without available beds to place patients appropriately following surgery, we cannot safely proceed with some surgeries under these capacity limitations. The backlog concern is further exacerbated by a national anesthesiologist shortage that reduces this vital operating room clinical resource. Again, we are working on recruitment efforts in competition with dozens of peer hospitals facing similar shortages across the country.

“WRH has been actively and aggressively recruiting for anesthesiologists for the last three years,” said Dr. Wassim Saad, WRH Vice-President of Medical Affairs and Chief of Staff. “Despite the national shortage, we are working on securing 4 new department members to begin in the fall. In addition, we continue to work closely with our partners in London to provide some level of short-term coverage.”

Based on the above we anticipate a prolonged period whereby WRH is unable to return to pre-COVID operating room levels. Please note that these issues DO NOT interrupt emergency surgeries or cancer surgeries, which are always prioritized.

The WRH surgery clinical leadership is working tirelessly on these issues but we thought it important to stress that your individual surgeon is doing all they can to book and complete your surgery. These issues are outside your individual surgeon’s direct control.

WRH will continue to work with your surgeon about schedules for patients requiring surgery. We ask for the community’s patience while we work to address these issues going forward.

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