Windsor-Essex residents endure fear, pain as surgeries get cancelled across Ontario

The rush of Omicron cases at hospitals has prompted the province to suspend any non-urgent medical procedures, leaving sick peoples' lives on hold.

Non-urgent medical procedures paused in Ontario due to Omicron surge

Lakeshore, Ont. resident Michelle Mainwaring was supposed to have a precancerous skin spot removed on Wedneday. Now, she has no idea if her condition will worsen, after the procedure was postponed due to Ontario's pause all non-urgent hospital procedures. (Submitted by Michelle Mainwaring)

Michelle Mainwaring was supposed to have a procedure to remove a precancerous skin spot  on Wednesday, but now says that appointment is a "wait and see." 

Mainwaring is one of those affected by an indefinite postponement on non-urgent medical procedures for the third time since March 2020, while the province deals with a surge in cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

"I'd really like to get it out of the way. I don't know enough about it, but I do have that underlying fear. 'Is it going to get worse? Are they going to have to remove more? Is that going to leave me with a bigger wound?'" she said. 

"I've got questions that I just don't have the answers to, and I don't think they know either, at this point."

Mainwaring, who works as an actor, said it was difficult to schedule her procedure the first time because of a testing and five-day isolation requirement for anyone having a surgery at a hospital. (Submitted by Michelle Mainwaring)

The Lakeshore, Ont., resident was just about to get a COVID-19 test and enter into a five-day isolation period before her procedure was set to take place in London, Ont., when she found out it would be delayed until an unknown date. 

"My first concern is, is this going to grow to the point they're going to have to remove more than they would have because it's grown?" said Mainwaring.

"I don't know at this point what the rate of growth is or should I be too concerned."

While she doesn't blame the staff at the hospital, who she said seemed very concerned they couldn't re-book the procedure, Mainwaring is critical of the government. 

"It's a huge failure in our leadership provincially I think. We went into this with a shortage already of overworked nurses and it's just not getting any better," she said. "I really do feel for them you see how hard they're working, you see their pleas on social media, they're tired."

Erica Oliphant says as a teacher she is on her feet constantly, which is an action that causes a lot of pain. (CBC News)

Pause affects between 8,000 and 10,000 procedures a week

The most recent data from the Windsor Regional Hospital shows that there's a backlog of more than 3,400 non-urgent surgeries.

Ontario Health, the agency that oversees the province's health system, said Thursday it couldn't confirm the number of surgeries that had been cancelled so far this year. But when the pause was announced on Jan. 3, Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson said it would affect between 8,000 and 10,000 procedures a week.

"It was a tough decision, a big cost, but something that is necessary given what we're seeing in the [COVID-19] numbers," Anderson said at the time.

As Friday, 104 hospital beds are taken up by COVID-19 patients locally, the majority of which are at Windsor Regional Hospital. 

That's where Erica Oliphant was supposed to get joint replacement surgery on her foot. She was supposed to have the surgery just before the pandemic hit, but has seen repeated rescheduling since. 

Her care over the last two years has consisted of costly treatments to try to help her condition in her joints. She calls the whole process "discouraging."

"There's not one step during the day that I am without pain in my feet. So it's something that I was looking forward to, becoming a little bionic," she said, adding that she's on her feet most days in her profession as a teacher.

"The worst part of waiting is just that for me I enjoy walking, I enjoy outdoor sports, I enjoy yoga. And those are all activities that I can't do much of anymore without being in a lot of pain," she added.

Oliphant said as of now she's unaware of when her surgery might happen, adding the last she heard from her doctor was that it's not likely to happen in the foreseeable future. 

With files from Peter Duck, Ryan Patrick Jones

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