Hey, who cancelled my surgery?
After spending months preparing herself to go under the knife, Jina Yu was understandably upset when the procedure was cancelled just 90 minutes ahead of time because her surgeon had a cold.
“I understand, because the doctor got sick, but on the other side, I got mad,” said the Penticton hair stylist, who had arranged vacation days around the planned surgery in April to remove a lump on the back of her neck.
“My schedule, everything was messed up,” she said.
The procedure later went off without a hitch and Yu is as good as new, but an extra month spent waiting for surgery was tough on her.
“It was just scary,” she said. “It was my first surgery.”
Fortunately, stories like Yu’s are relatively uncommon. Sick doctors were responsible for just three cancelled operations last year at Penticton Regional Hospital, according to data provided by Interior Health in response to a freedom of information request.
Statistics show patients here were instead more likely to be sent home due to operating rooms running late or because they themselves were ill.
Still, despite its aging infrastructure, PRH cancels relatively fewer surgeries than others facilities in the region.
Just 94 of 3,500 surgeries — about 2.7 per cent — at PRH were cancelled within 48 of their scheduled time in 2013-14, well below the average of 4.9 per cent across all Interior Health sites.
Of those 94 cancellations, 22 were as a result of operating rooms running late, making it the most common reason for delay.
Hospital administrator Lori Motluk said rooms typically get behind due to complications that arise during surgery, which is more common with patents who are elderly or obese.
She noted staff has been working to find ways to cancel fewer surgeries by preparing more accurate operating-room time estimates and ensuring patients are indeed ready for their procedures.
Those efforts have resulted in a nearly one-third decrease in 48-hour cancellations over the past three years.
“We’ve adjusted a process now within our pre-surgical area where we see people before their surgery and based on that individual patient we try to set the time that’s required,” Motluk explained.
“It’s more personalized, and that’s giving us better accuracy.”
The president of the Penticton Medical Staff Society said members have not approached her with any concerns about surgery postponements.
“However, (cancellation rate) information suggests Penticton is doing well compared to other IH facilities,” Dr. Jacqueline Stewart said in an email.
Sixteen surgeons work out of PRH, where the most common procedures are hip and knee replacements, said Motluk.
She also noted the seven-storey ambulatory care tower that’s part of the planned $325-million renovation of the facility will include new surgical suites.
“The new tower (will) give us much better physical space that supports new technologies and new equipment, space for the teams to work in,” Motluk said, “so that’s really the advantage.”
Want to know more about Penticton Regional Hospital stacks up against others in the Okanagan? Check the online version of this story at www.pentictonwesternnews.com to see graphic illustrations of our data.