A Winnipegger whose surgery was cancelled while she was waiting to be wheeled into the operating room is urging other patients not to lose hope.

A Winnipegger whose surgery was cancelled while she was waiting to be wheeled into the operating room is urging other patients not to lose hope.

Val Guy’s hip-replacement surgery had been rescheduled four times by the time she arrived at Concordia Hospital to have the procedure done Thursday afternoon. She was already in a hospital gown and on a gurney when apologetic nurses told her it wasn’t going to happen.

There was no post-surgery hospital bed for her.

Guy said she was “furious first of all, and then despondent.”

“It’s not knowing what the future holds. When are they going to be opening up surgeries again? Not just for me, but for everybody else waiting for surgery?”

The retired teacher is one of thousands of Manitobans awaiting backlogged surgeries because of the COVID-19 crisis in hospitals. More than 57,827 surgeries are in the queue, including at least 9,616 hip and knee replacements, according to estimates collected by Doctors Manitoba.

Guy was hopeful the surgery would put an end to the “agonizing pain” that prompted her retirement in 2018 and keeps her house-bound and using a walker most of the time. Guy had been waiting for surgery since August, and she knew pandemic uncertainties meant there would be no guarantees.

But when the hospital moved her up the schedule, from Jan. 25 to Jan. 20, with staff telling her they were concerned there wouldn’t be any operating rooms available next week, Guy said she regained some hope.

That hope was short-lived, and her surgery has yet to be rescheduled.

When asked about cancellation notice for surgical patients, a Shared Health spokesperson said “late postponements” are sometimes unavoidable, particularly if post-op patients take longer than expected to recover and can’t be transferred out of the unit. If that happens, there isn’t enough staff to care for additional patients after their surgeries.

Last-minute surgery postponements also happen because of unexpected staff absences, emergency surgeries, or surgeries taking longer than planned.

In a statement, the spokesperson said Shared Health was “unaware of the exact circumstances” of this case.

“We can appreciate how upsetting surgical postponements can be for patients who, due to COVID, have likely been waiting for treatment for some amount of time. This would be doubly true for patients who experience last-minute postponements such as the one you describe.”

Likening the virus to a “war,” Guy called on unvaccinated Manitobans to get their shots to help protect others. She also called on the government to enact more public-health restrictions and hire more health-care staff.

“People are not getting what they need,” she said. “I don’t want to sound hopeless, but when you’re sitting there on the gurney, it seems somewhat hopeless, frustrating and agonizingly sad. Because I thought I was going to come away in a couple of days with a new hip. Instead, I had to phone my husband to pick me up.”

Guy said she and so many Manitobans are waiting for a better quality of life.

To others in the surgery queue, she said: “Don’t give up. Be persistent in advocating for yourself. Have a large support system you can contact on a regular basis, basically to quell your fears or your frustrations, and once again, not to give up hope.”


Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.