A Coalmont woman is waiting anxiously for the phone to ring.
Nienke Klaver was just days away from receiving a hip replacement at Penticton General Hospital, March 23, when the province cancelled all non-essential surgeries due to COVID-19.
“After waiting in extreme pain for nine months, to be cancelled this close to the surgery date was a huge disappointment,” said Klaver.
Between March 17 and April 2, 11,276 scheduled surgical procedures were cancelled.
Of that total, 1,208 are hip and knee replacements, 240 were dental surgeries, which were essential surgeries if they required an acute care setting, and 7,801 are other surgeries,
“The hardest part, besides having to deal with the pain,” is how it has affected my mental health,” said Klaver. “My reactions to everything are over the top, which has also been very difficult for my husband as well. Besides taking over most of what my share of the housework was, he also has to ‘pick up the pieces’ when I break down.
“In a consultation with my practitioner, she increased my dose of painkillers and doubled my dose of anti-depressants.”
Last week it was announced Interior Health (IH) will resume elective surgeries that were postponed.
“While the pandemic continues to evolve, IH is collaborating with the ministry of health to safely resume elective surgeries to support access for patients, both on waitlists and yet to be added. Throughout the resumption of services, our priority is to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” stated an IH news release.
IH is calling patients to confirm their health status and if they are able and willing to move forward with surgery.
Those who choose to postpone their surgery won’t lose their spot on the waitlist, according to IH.
As Klaver waits for news of a new operation date, she is grateful.
“I do realize that compared to others, I am extremely fortunate. In comparison, the social distancing required because of COVID-19 is not nearly as difficult as coping with the deterioration of my physical and mental health.
“When I see what other people in the world have to go through I am still able to count my blessings.”
However she questions whether her operation, and others, should have been deemed non-essential.
“I’m not sure it’s right that something like a hip or knee operation is considered non-essential. How is this defined and who gets to make this decision? The suffering that people go through can have a devastating effect on a relationship and I can see how it could lead to separation and divorce.
“I can also see how this might lead to a deterioration of one’s quality of life with alcohol and drugs becoming a way for people to deal with their pain and mental health issues…I am sure that suicide may be an option some people consider.”
Klaver is very knowledgable about B.C.’s health care system.
With her husband Ed Staples, she was one of the leaders behind the formation of Princeton’s Support our Health Care Society. That organization successfully lobbied to keep the town’s emergency room open when it was under threat several years ago.
She and Staples are members of the B.C. Health Coalition and founding members of the B.C. Rural Health Network, which connects with policymakers to improve heath services in rural areas.
“Through all of this, I try to keep a positive attitude,” she said. “It helps to know that eventually we will have ‘our’ operation, that summer is upon us, we can sit outside, go down to the river, enjoy our garden, and hopefully meet with friends and family. This too will pass.”
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