Some people waiting for elective surgery at Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital had their operations cancelled last week due to air quality concerns in the operating room.

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Dr. Anna Reid, Stanton Territorial Hospital's medical director, says it's difficult to keep forest fire smoke out of the operating room because the air exchanger draws air from outside.

Dr. Anna Reid, Stanton's medical director, says the air exchanger in the operating room operates at three times the rate of ventilation in the rest of the hospital because anaesthetic gases in the enclosed space require more rapid ventilation.

Reid says that makes it difficult to keep forest fire smoke out of the operating room because the air exchanger draws air from outside.

"We always err on the side of safety," she said. "In a situation where you're putting people to sleep and helping them breathe already on machines, the decision was made that it would actually be potentially safer to just cancel those surgeries that weren't emergent."

On average, Reid says Stanton performs four to eight elective surgeries a day.

The operating room will now stay closed for the next two weeks for its scheduled summer closure. The closure is standard practice across the country for staff to take a break and to save money. 

Reid says emergency operations will still be done during the summer closure, if a situation arises.