Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) on Feb. 28 announced the opening of a second operating room (OR) at Squamish General Hospital in order to reduce surgical wait times.
The additional OR will be staffed five days per week with surgeons from Squamish and Lions Gate Hospital. Six additional nursing positions will be added to assist with the increased number of surgeries.
"It increases the capacity for what we're already doing," said Dr. Kim MacDonald, a surgeon and obstetrician at Squamish Hospital. "The primary focus up to this point has been gynecology, surgery, obstetrics and orthopedics and what this does is... allow ear nose and throat, or plastic surgery or urology procedures and it definitely increases the variety of operations that are done in the hospital in Squamish — and the volume."
MacDonald said an existing OR was not previously used, but increased staff will now enable an additional 576 surgeries to be performed annually at Squamish. The move is primarily designed to increase services for Sea to Sky residents, but it will also mean some surgeries will be performed for North Shore residents.
"There will be some patients coming up from the city but the goal is to definitely increase access for local patients," MacDonald said, adding that the increasing number of births in the corridor means patients can get the care they need.
"We have about 500 pregnancies in the corridor in a year and up until last year, about half of them delivered in Squamish, mostly hospital births, but also some home births," said MacDonald.
"The population is growing in the corridor and we are the only community with a growth in reproductive-aged women — all the other regions are dropping in that category," he said.
"What is really important is that it increases the number of nurses and increases what we can offer for maternity care because maternity care relies heavily on surgical access so it just shores up staffing and makes our program more robust," said MacDonald. "It allows us to keep offering that service 24/7 really."
In a release, West Van-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy said: "...This initiative is both important for future growth plans as well as reducing surgical wait times. Expanded Squamish operating room hours also builds on the recent announcement of 16 new surgical suites at Vancouver General Hospital, increasing timely access to surgery for the people of the Sea to Sky."