Cranbrook, B.C., hospital cancels surgeries amid anesthesiologist shortage

The East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, B.C. is cancelling dozens of surgeries this week due to a 'critical' shortage of anesthesiologists.

Dozens of surgeries postponed at East Kootenay Regional Hospital

The East Kootenay Regional Hospital will only perform emergency surgeries this week due to an ongoing shortage of doctors who are specially trained to administer anesthetics. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, B.C., has been forced to cancel dozens of surgeries this week due to a shortage of anesthesiologists.

The hospital currently has only three anesthesiologists available when a hospital of its size should have six, according to the Interior Health region.

"That makes it very difficult. We have three operating rooms and you can't run the rooms with just three anesthesiologists," said Dr. Lawrence Jewitt, the hospital's chief of staff.

Anesthesiologists administer general or local anesthetic to patients prior to surgery, then monitor their vital signs during operations.

Jewitt said he has contacted other B.C. hospitals in an effort to find locums, or replacement doctors, to help cover the shortage.

"For this week, it's critical and we can't seem to get any locums," said Jewitt.

"I think people should be concerned and be tolerant."

He said there is a province-wide shortage and he expects the problem could be "quite acute for the next few months."

The Ministry of Health and Interior Health are aware of the issue.

While multiple surgeries have already had to be postponed, emergency surgeries will continue as normal. 

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Bob Keating