SUDBURY -- After delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Sciences North is ready to resume elective surgeries, the hospital said Tuesday.

Before the pandemic began, the waitlist for non-urgent surgeries at the hospital in Sudbury sat at 3,500 people.

“After wave one, because non-urgent surgeries were being rescheduled, our surgical waitlist peaked at 4,200 patients,” said HSN CEO Dominic Giroux.

Giroux said thanks to efforts made from October to March, with the hospital conducting surgeries seven days a week, the hospital was able to get that list down to 4,000 people. However, due to the provincial stay-at-home order imposed in April, the hospital could only operate at 60 per cent of its historical volume.

“Now that hospitals can again schedule non-urgent surgeries, we plan to reach 80 per cent of historical volumes next week," he said. "I think it’s important to note that cancer and cardiac cases were done through the pandemic, however what we're seeing is that nearly half of our waitlist relates to two of our 10 surgical sub-specialties, being ophthalmology and orthopedics.”

Jane Pascoe broke her ankle in February 2020 and it has been a long road to recovery. She already had one surgery since the injury happened, but she’s been waiting for an ankle replacement. Even though she's excited for her name to come up on the waitlist, she admitted it’s stressful.

“You don’t realize how stressful it is until you are in that situation," Pascoe said. "I know once they call me for surgery I have a 10-day quarantine … The last time I only had about 16 hours' notice that I was going into surgery. If I only get a day's notice, it means I have to do everything that day. Because the next day I have to go into quarantine.”

Pascoe said it’s important that she has her surgery sooner rather than later, since it was a workplace injury and she worries she won’t be able to return to work before her claim runs out.

Can't wait any longer

“The income replacement portion of my claim runs out in February of next year, so if I’m not healed and back to work, I will have been off two years," she said. "I will not have an EI claim and I will not be eligible for WSIB so I will have zero income.”

While the hospital is working hard to get its historical volume back up to 100 per cent by mid-June, Giroux said it’s important to remember we aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID cases.

“While we’ve seen great progress over the past month in Ontario in terms of the number of active cases of COVID-19 and with regards to hospitalizations, we still have today 689 COVID patients in ICUs in Ontario, including 22 in the north," he said.

"So that’s 40 per cent more patients in ICUs with COVID in the province than we had, for instance, when the stay-at-home order was issued by the province in early April.”

Giroux said there are no plans in place as of now to welcome more critical care COVID patients to the hospital, however staff are on standby should the situation change.