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Operations resuming at St. B

All 14 ORs expected to be up by Monday

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Surgeries are resuming at St. Boniface Hospital as operating rooms reopen.

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Surgeries are resuming at St. Boniface Hospital as operating rooms reopen. Photo Store

Hospital officials across Winnipeg breathed a sigh of relief Thursday as surgical services in the province's second-biggest hospital began to ramp up after 15 days idle.

St. Boniface Hospital reopened three of its 14 operating rooms for emergency surgeries at 7:45 a.m. Thursday and was to have nine ORs up and running by today. It's expected all will be back in action by Monday.

The closure, which occurred Jan. 22 when heating and ventilation systems failed in the hospital's surgical areas, forced the Winnipeg health system to scramble to handle emergency surgeries. St. B has 20 per cent of the city's surgical capacity.

It appears these surgeries were accommodated without incident.

"To our knowledge, there's been nobody who has been harmed as a result of having to have their urgent or emergent surgery provided elsewhere," said Dr. Brock Wright, senior vice-president and chief medical officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Over the next several weeks, St. Boniface Hospital hopes to catch up on hundreds of postponed scheduled or elective surgeries caused by the closure.

Seventy-eight of the 348 patients who had operations delayed have already been re-booked and had their procedures performed. Another 237 patients are in the process of being scheduled, leaving 33 yet to be re-booked. All will be rescheduled by early next week, Wright said.

"All of those cases will be done well within an eight-week time frame. Most of them will be done much sooner than eight weeks," he said of the surgical backlog.

To get rid of the backlog, the hospital will extend surgical hours on weekdays and book slates of surgeries on weekends.

The vast majority of postponed surgeries are those originally booked at St. Boniface, but 18 others were put off at other city hospitals whose services were stretched to cope with the OR closures at St. B.

The operating rooms went out of commission Jan. 22 when heating and ventilation systems failed and cold air got inside, causing heating coils to freeze and crack. The initial prognosis was the operating rooms could be down for many weeks.

Dr. Michel Tétreault, St. Boniface Hospital's president and CEO, said staff spent hours testing the ventilation system under simulated surgical situations before pronouncing it ready.

He said officials will now focus their attention on determining the precise cause of the breakdown. He said that should be known in "a matter of weeks."

Tétreault said it's too early to estimate repair costs, as the bills aren't all in. At least some of the costs will be covered by insurance, he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2014 B3

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