Critical Condition

The Canadian Model

From the Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — Vancouver patients needing neurosurgery, treatment for vascular diseases and other medically necessary procedures can expect to wait longer for care, NDP health critic Adrian Dix said Monday.

Dix said a Vancouver Coastal Health Authority document shows it is considering chopping more than 6,000 surgeries in an effort to make up for a dramatic budgetary shortfall that could reach $200 million.

“This hasn’t been announced by the health authority … but these cuts are coming,” Dix said, citing figures gleaned from a leaked executive summary of “proposed VCH surgical reductions.”

The health authority confirmed the document is genuine, but said it represents ideas only.

“It is a planning document. It has not been approved or implemented,” said spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo.

Dr. Brian Brodie, president of the BC Medical Association, called the proposed surgical cuts “a nightmare.”

“Why would you begin your cost-cutting measures on medically necessary surgery? I just can’t think of a worse place,” Brodie said.

According to the leaked document, Vancouver Coastal — which oversees the budget for Vancouver General and St. Paul’s hospitals, among other health-care facilities — is looking to close nearly a quarter of its operating rooms starting in September and to cut 6,250 surgeries, including 24 per cent of cases scheduled from September to March and 10 per cent of all medically necessary elective procedures this fiscal year.

The plan proposes cutbacks to neurosurgery, ophthalmology, vascular surgery, and 11 other specialized areas.

As many of 112 full-time jobs — including 13 anesthesiologist positions — would be affected by the reductions, the document says.

“Clearly this will impact the capacity of the health-care system to provide care, not just now but in the future,” Dix said.

Further reductions in surgeries are scheduled during the Olympics, when the health authority plans to close approximately a third of its operating rooms.