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More surgeries performed in Nanaimo last year

Surgical wait times in Nanaimo have remained relatively steady in recent years, but the number of surgeries has increased.

At Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, there were 8,530 daycare surgeries and 2,199 inpatient surgeries performed in 2010-11, compared with 7,946 and 2,116 in 2009-10 and 7,553 and 1,926 in 2008-09.

Last year, 80 per cent of day-care patients and 74 per cent of inpatients received their surgeries within four months, which is similar to 82 per cent and 72 per cent the year before and 79 per cent and 72 per cent three years ago.

David McCoy, director for inpatient and ambulatory surgery with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said it's good news the health authority is holding the line on wait times while increasing the number of surgeries.

"That's the gains we've made, getting more patients through," he said. "The number waiting less than four months has increased slightly."

McCoy attributes the gains to several initiatives.

Health officials have improved wait-list management practices, including working closely with physicians' offices to ensure those people waiting longest are served first, he said.

The health authority is also ensuring that as many procedures as possible are same-day surgeries, which means patients go home rather than taking up a bed overnight, and health officials are improving pre- and post-operative processes.

For example, allowing patients to remain in their own clothes for some surgeries reduces the time it takes to get the patient ready for surgery and educating patients before they have an operation on what to expect afterwards helps them go home sooner, said McCoy.

A final factor is the extra funding the health authority received to do more surgeries, medical procedures and MRI exams.

McCoy said the money went to those categories of patients waiting the longest and will impact the number of surgeries performed this fiscal year more than 2010-11.

He said Nanaimo surgery numbers are a slight bit below the average for the entire health authority. More than half of all surgeries done on the Island are performed in the Victoria area.

Nanaimo and the Island also compare well to the rest of the province, as information on the Ministry of Health Services website shows many surgery categories are on par or slightly below provincial averages.

A recent Fraser Institute study found that B.C. has the second-shortest total median wait time for surgery – at 19.3 weeks.

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