It’s one of the worst-case scenarios: You find yourself at the hospital, requiring an emergency surgery for a life-threatening condition.
Whether it’s a burst blood vessel, a hip fracture or appendicitis, you’d assume that there would be one out of many operating rooms in Canada available for you. After all, wouldn’t you want your emergency surgery to be done ASAP?
Operating rooms in Canada
Unfortunately, a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that’s not always a case.
Approximately 19 per cent of 15,160 adults that had emergency surgery experienced a surgical delay, according to a recent study conducted by The Ottawa Hospital.
With each case’s sense of urgency into consideration, researchers found that 39 per cent of cases experienced known delays.
Lack of available operating rooms, lack of personnel (often a surgeon), or being bumped for another higher-priority case were the most common reasons for delays.
Why Canada needs more ORs
On average, patients with delayed surgeries are more likely to stay in the hospital a day longer than usual. Plus, delayed patients cost the hospital $1,409 more than a patient who had their surgery in a timely matter.
To make matters worse, delayed patients had a 4.9 per cent mortality risk in hospital. This is compared to a 3.2 per cent mortality risk for non-delayed patients.
“Delays in emergency surgeries are a problem around the world. Despite this, there’s been uncertainty about whether it impacts patient health,” said Dr. Alan Forster, vice-president of Quality, Performance and Population Health and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, in a press release.
“For the first time we have strong evidence that the sooner you get to the operating room for an emergency surgery, the better off you are, regardless of your condition before surgery,”
Scheduling emergency surgeries
As a result of these findings, The Ottawa Hospital tried a new method for emergency surgeries.
Their solution: Dedicating specific OR times for emergency surgeries only, and spreading scheduled elective surgeries throughout the week. This showed significant improvement in getting patients into the OR rooms quickly.
“It might seem counter-intuitive, but having unused time in expensive operating rooms could save both money and lives,” said Forster.
It would be a smart move for Canadian hospitals to practice these same methods sooner rather than later, especially considering Canada’s aging population.