Nova Scotia

More operating room nurses expected in Cape Breton

The Cape Breton District Health Authority says the arrival of new operating-room nurses should mean more surgeries this fall.

Delays for hip and knee replacements

The Cape Breton District Health Authority says the arrival of new operating-room nurses this fall should mean more surgeries.

A shortage of nurses had led to temporary closures of some community operating rooms. As a result, some patients are waiting longer to have surgery.

Connie Gregory, director of perioperative care, said the situation should improve in a few months when several new nurses are hired.

"We're making progress. This time last year we had 9.8 vacancies. We now have two permanent vacancies and three temporary. That's half of where we were," she said.

The shortage came to light this spring when a surgeon announced he was leaving Cape Breton because he couldn't get enough time in the operating room.

The health district says it is an ongoing problem as operating-room nurses retire.

Gregory said the district has no choice but to close operating rooms in smaller community hospitals when it needs nurses for urgent cases at the regional hospital in Sydney.

"We do it as little as we can," she said. "We try always to keep in mind the impact on both the surgeons, the patients and the staff themselves."

Currently, more than 1,000 people in the district are waiting for hip and knee replacements, while 800 are waiting for general surgery.

It's a bad situation, but it's better than it was before, said Dr. Abdul Atiyah, chief of surgery.

"We are trying as much as we can to do the maximum number of surgeries within the resources we can. Definitely the situation was worse last year than this year," he said.

Atiyah said the health authority set aside some extra operating-room time this year to try to clear up some of the backlog.