Progress made towards returning south island operating rooms to full capacity

More people will get the surgical procedures they need, as the focused efforts and enhanced recruitment initiatives Island Health committed to in the summer will enable operating rooms (ORs) to reopen at Victoria General Hospital (VGH) and Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH) in November. 

Beginning October 30, one additional OR opened at both VGH and RJH, meaning 20 of the 22 ORs across the two hospitals are in operation full time. These additional ORs will be able to support approximately 10 cases per day. In addition, approximately 75 more operations will be completed in November as 15 additional days of OR time have been added so far on an ad-hoc basis as staffing has become available. 

Island Health has taken significant action over the last two months as part of our commitment to returning south island operating rooms to full capacity as quickly as possible. Through this focused work, successes include:

  • Since September, approximately 105 more people have had their surgeries completed as Island Health has been able to add 27 days of OR time. 
  • Hired nine new RNs, 11 more are currently in the hiring process. 
  • Working with an additional five casual RNs to support vacant OR shifts through the EOI and call out process.
  • Increased access at the South Island Surgical Centre by performing more orthopedics, general surgery, ear, nose and throat, and paediatric urology cases there.

This was achieved through:

  • Making individual phone calls to every nurse on the casual list or those who had recently left their role to ensure awareness of additional opportunities and explore possibilities to return or take on more shifts
  • Issuing a focused Expression of Interest (EOI) to casual staff from other sites to fill RJH/VGH vacant surgical nursing shifts
  • Working with surgical leaders to increase surgical bed resources to improve surgical flow and capacity – specifically by adding 8 beds to the RJH surgical short stay unit and 6 post surgical beds 
  • Expanding use of agency nursing for the ORs and Post Anesthesia Recovery Units (PACU)
  • Fully utilizing the South Island Surgical Centre

As is usual practice, surgical capacity was reduced over the summer months. While capacity typically ramps back up in the fall, since September, RJH and VGH were operating on a reduced schedule with 18 of 22 regular ORs in use due to nursing staff challenges. 

We are deeply thankful to our surgical teams and staff who continue to step up to ensure our patients receive the best care possible.  

We know that short notice postponements of medical procedures have a negative impact on patients and their families. We want patients to have certainty that when they have a procedure scheduled, it will take place as planned. We are committed to ensuring that people who have their surgery postponed will be rescheduled as soon as possible.