Amid new public measures to mitigate the spread of COVID, hundreds of surgeries in Alberta are cancelled this week because of rising COVID hospitalizations and ICU admissions. Eric Mulder, an Edmonton-area cancer patient in need of brain surgery, is one such victim.
"The first question I asked was, ‘When's the new surgery date?' and they told me there wasn't one," said Mulder.
Two months ago, the 31-year-old suffered a seizure and was rushed to the Strathcona Community Hospital. Doctors there discovered a tumour in his brain.
They advised him to get immediate surgery where doctors would then address his chemo and radiation options.
"My surgery was originally scheduled for [Wednesday at the University of Alberta Hospital], but I received a call [Tuesday] afternoon that the surgery has been cancelled indefinitely," tweeted Mulder.
He told CTV News that he took time off work for the surgery, with his wife's family flying in from Newfoundland to help care for him. But less than 24 hours before the surgery, he was called and told the procedure was postponed.
"Now that everything is up in the air again, stress and anxiety are right back up there," said Mulder.
He pleads with Albertans to call, email, or share his story with Alberta government officials, as more surgeries like his are delayed across the province.
AHS announced Wednesday that it was cancelling all scheduled elective surgeries and many outpatient procedures for the remainder of the week at Calgary hospitals. They said staff had to move around to manage the surge in COVID patients sent to the ICU.
Edmonton head and neck cancer surgeon Dr. Dan O'Connell said that unless more Albertans get vaccinated, more procedures will be put on hold.
In Alberta, 89 percent of the 147 ICU patients in the province are unvaccinated.
"Hospital administration is having to make really difficult decisions in terms of creating capacity for COVID-related care like ICU beds," he said. "And the net effect is there's nowhere for surgical patients to go."
"Everyone's scared if they have cancer, they're scared, their families are scared. People don't seem to understand that."
In a statement from AHS, patient prognosis, urgency and long-term outcomes resulting from a delay factor into surgical priority.
AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson acknowledged the anxiety of patients with postponed surgeries, in particular, adding, "we know the toll cancer, treatment, and any delays in those treatments can have on patients and families."
"We are doing everything we can to reduce this anxiety and provide the absolute best care," he added.