Staff and leadership within northwestern Ontario’s healthcare system say certain emergent, urgent and elective surgeries will continue in local hospitals, despite Ontario’s order to ramp down these procedures.

The province told all hospitals to begin to cease all non-essential and elective surgeries earlier this month, everywhere pediatric specialty hospitals. It was a similar order issued last March during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more resources are needed for patients in intensive care units.

But President and CEO of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Ray Racette, explains his staff are in the best position to determine if the patient’s surgery should continue, noting many residents have been on a waiting list since early 2020.

“If the health status of the person could deteriorate, where they’re at risk of serious complications or becoming emergent where you need to do it because their life could be threatened, you can’t take a chance on that. They need to be seen through the eyes of the clinician.”

Racette says all patients continue to have access to other health services, including those that are related to surgical services, including diagnostic and pain management work, and they are prepared to pivot to make further changes if the situation requires.

In Dryden, President and CEO of the Dryden Regional Health Centre, Doreen Armstrong-Ross, says Dryden’s hospital will continue to perform surgeries and all other services as scheduled.

“We know that delaying elective surgeries and other procedures and appointments has an adverse effect on patient outcomes and quality of life. We also know that the stringent infection control measures we have in place are effective in keeping our patients, staff and physicians safe.”

In Sioux Lookout, the Meno Ya Win Health Centre has finished a review of all booked non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures to determine which urgent and emergent surgeries will still take place, but non-urgent procedures have been paused.

“This decision was made to help create and ensure bed capacity in the entire provincial health system, especially as wave three of the pandemic continues to place a significant strain on many health care facilities across Ontario,” says Heather Lee, President and CEO of SLMHC.

While it’s tough to estimate, Racette says he expects this directive to continue into September at least when hopefully, the majority of Canadians are vaccinated. He also notes this third wave of COVID-19 has been much tougher on front-line healthcare staff and hospitals overall.

“We recognize this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented burdens on our health system and wish to acknowledge our entire team for their responsiveness, professionalism, and commitment during these challenging times,” states Kenora’s hospital in a prepared release.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a confirmed case of the virus is asked to immediately self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.