New policy statement addresses the challenges to surgical care

November 28, 2022

More than 80,000 patients in BC are waiting for surgery, with more added to waitlists every day. Many have already waited far longer than the federal government’s benchmark limit of 26 weeks, others have been waiting for over a year. And these long wait times are impacting surgical outcomes and the quality of life for these patients.

Surgical procedureDoctors of BC engaged our membership to ensure we can effectively advocate for policy solutions that reflect their experience and meet their needs. In our recent policy statement, Addressing Challenges to Surgical Care, we draw attention to the surgical care crisis happening in our health care system and call for improved efforts to increase access to surgical care. 

Many factors can be attributed to the lack of timely access to surgical care, including staffing shortages and the lack of available resources and capacity – all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Physicians continue to juggle the competing demands of limited resources and a lack of critical care space, all while facing a backlog of patients who have gotten sicker while waiting for surgery. 

Our members stressed the need for physician input to be included in provincial, regional, and local surgical planning, and emphasized the need to address staffing shortages. Valuable feedback from BC physicians was relied on to create our recommendations and commitments which include:


  • The Ministry of Health and health authorities meaningfully engage with physicians and members of the perioperative care team to ensure that existing and new surgical plans and guidelines are appropriate for and meet the unique needs of patients, physicians, and care teams at the provincial, regional, and local level.
  • The Ministry of Health and health authorities implement strategies targeted at retaining existing health care staff and recruiting new staff to mitigate the increase in health care staff shortages, including targeted recruitment for perioperative nursing.
  • Physicians providing surgical care, including perioperative care, be adequately supported with the necessary resources and infrastructure to ensure quality patient care. This includes access to health care staff, beds, critical care space, and other surgical equipment.


  • Supporting provincial, regional, and site level collaboration between the Ministry of Health and surgeons, anesthesiologists, and surgical assistants through facility engagement and regional advocacy.
  • Continuing to advocate at the provincial level to address systemic issues in surgical care, such as reducing non-clinical demands that take physicians away from patient care and reduce patient access to care.
  • Engaging with physicians and using available data to track challenges physicians are facing in providing surgical care and raising these issues with government and health authorities to improve access to surgery.

Patients deserve timely access to surgical care, and physicians need the resources necessary to do so and to provide the high level of quality care they want to give their patients. The recommendations and commitments in this policy statement will support our ongoing advocacy work as we push for improvements in surgical care in BC. 

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