Surgery delays in Lambton as COVID-19 cases put strain on hospital resources

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If you had non-urgent or cataract surgery scheduled in the next couple of weeks, it has likely been postponed.

Bluewater Health has paused all non-urgent surgeries in Sarnia and cataract surgery at the Pat Mallieux Eye Clinic at Petrolia’s Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital.

Starting tomorrow, Bluewater Health will only be completing urgent/emergent surgeries, as well as oncology-related surgical procedures.

Non-urgent surgical cases which require in-patient hospital admissions will be delayed. Officials say doctors will continue to complete the scheduled outpatient surgical cases booked for this week.

Patients whose surgical procedure is affected will be notified by their specialist to cancel or reschedule their appointment.

The Pat Mailloux Eye Centre in Petrolia remains open, but cataract surgeries have been cancelled for the month of January.

The move comes as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in Ontario. Today, the province is reporting 10,436 – that’s up nearly 19 per cent from the day before. In Lambton, another 71 people contracted COVID. Officials say 532 people are actively ill.

The recent onslaught due to the fast spreading Omicron variant is causing hospitals across the province to re-evaluate elective surgeries. Lambton’s hospitals are among the first to announce elective surgery delays.

“While we cannot predict how long these changes will need to be in place or if other reductions will be needed, we will continue to coordinate with our local partners and health providers to minimize any patient backlog,” said Dr. Michael Haddad, chief of staff at Bluewater Health. “We appreciate the public’s patience and understanding as we navigate this new wave of COVID-19.”

The hospital is also seen an increasing number of people come through the emergency department; many are looking for COVID-19 testing. The hospital does not provide PCR testing. That’s provided at separate clinics managed by health teams and Lambton Public Health.

Meantime, starting at midnight, family of those living in long term care are going to be severely limited in their opportunities to visit. Minister of Long Term Care, Rod Phillips, announced Tuesday only two essential care givers will be allowed into long term care per resident. They must be fully vaccinated and have completed a rapid test before entering.

Long term care residents won’t be able to leave their home for social purposes either.

The move comes amid calls from health experts for long term care home workers to be given priority for the booster for the COVID-19 vaccine and demands the workers be provided with N-95 masks to protect residents from the fast moving Omicron variant.

There are now 92 long term care homes and 24 retirement homes across the province with COVID-19 outbreaks.

As restrictions tighten, parents continue to wonder if their students will be heading back to school Monday. Premier Doug Ford is said to be considering the idea with his cabinet this week however a decision has yet to be made.

Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland have all delayed the start of school, choosing to go online temporarily.