‘This is my life we’re speaking about,’ says Ontario girl whose most cancers surgical procedure’s been delayed by Omicron

Last week, Cassandra Di Maria bought an e mail no most cancers affected person ever needs to obtain.

In it, a member of her surgeon’s group knowledgeable her that a significant surgical procedure she had scheduled for Jan. 19 at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital was being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No substitute date was set.

The e mail got here after the Ontario government introduced on Jan. 3 that non-urgent medical procedures could be placed on maintain for the third time since March 2020, while the province offers with a surge in cases of the highly-infectious Omicron variant.

“It’s very frustrating because this is my life we’re talking about,” mentioned Di Maria, 30. “I just want to be able to have my surgery completed and go into recovery and put this all behind me.”

The Vaughan, Ont., resident is one in every of hundreds of sufferers throughout the province who have had surgical procedures or procedures postponed or cancelled in a bid to forestall hospitals from being overwhelmed by record-high numbers of COVID-19 sufferers and employees shortages. 

Now, Di Maria is asking on the government to rethink the choice to cancel most cancers surgical procedures, saying the transfer is punishing non-COVID-19 sufferers whose lives are in danger.

“We all deserve to be treated for what we need to be treated for,” she mentioned.

third postponement

Diagnosed with stage 4 colon most cancers in November 2020, Di Maria underwent surgical procedure and started chemotherapy final January. She stopped chemo in October after 17 cycles so her immune system might recuperate in preparation for one more main surgical procedure to take away spots on her liver, stomach and one in every of her ovaries.

That surgical procedure, initially imagined to occur in November, had already been postponed twice earlier than it was cancelled final week.

Di Maria is anxious that being off chemotherapy for months has left her susceptible.

“Having it postponed and cancelled so many times … I’m worried, obviously, the cancer has gotten the chance to now spread further,” she mentioned.

Di Maria’s cousin Vanessa Pilieci posted this message on Instagram to attract consideration to her state of affairs. (Vanessa Pilieci/Instagram)

Ontario Health, the company that oversees the province’s health system, mentioned Thursday it could not verify the variety of surgical procedures that had been cancelled up to now this yr. But when the pause was introduced on Jan. 3, Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson mentioned it might have an effect on between 8,000 and 10,000 procedures every week.

“It was a tough decision, a big cost, but something that is necessary given what we’re seeing in the [COVID-19] numbers,” Anderson mentioned on the time.

The cancellations of non-urgent procedures in earlier waves of the pandemic led to an estimated backlog of 15.9 million surgical procedures, diagnostic exams, screenings and other medical procedures, the Ontario Medical Association mentioned in June 2021.

Ontario Health and the Ontario Hospital Association each declined requests for an interview.

‘It breaks my coronary heart’

Dr. Fayez Quereshy, scientific vice-president and a surgical oncologist at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), mentioned hospitals are dealing with “unprecedented” staffing shortages as health-care staff and assist employees get sick with COVID-19 or have to self-isolate.

While Di Maria’s surgical procedure was scheduled at a special hospital community, Quereshy mentioned he needed to name a most cancers affected person of his personal on Tuesday to inform them that their process was being delayed.

“It breaks my heart to hear that story because, obviously, we want to put our patients at the front and centre,” Quereshy mentioned. “Unfortunately, we’re making these calls far too often.”

Dr. Fayez Quereshy, scientific vice-president and a surgical oncologist on the University Health Network, says Ontario hospitals are dealing with ‘unprecedented’ employees shortages concurrently beds refill with COVID-19 sufferers. (Rosa Kim/UHN)

Quereshy mentioned UHN is making it a precedence to deal with the sufferers experiencing signs that require pressing consideration. Procedures that could be safely deferred or delayed are being rescheduled, he mentioned, to create capability amid surging demand for health care.

“The spike that we’re seeing — almost all of a sudden and with very little notice — is unlike anything that we’ve seen before,” Quereshy mentioned.

On Wednesday, the province introduced it might deploy internationally educated nurses to hospitals and a few long-term care properties strained by staffing shortages.

Meanwhile, Di Maria nonetheless does not know when it will be her flip.

“I’m just waiting for a confirmed surgery date, or a confirmed ‘No, it’s not even going to happen,’ so I can get back on chemo. Something,” she mentioned.

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