KITCHENER -- A Cambridge woman's surgery to repair nerve damage from cancer treatments was delayed due to a backlog amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My day-to-day life right now is very hard," Sarah Hunt said. "I don't sleep well and I don't have a lot of use of my hand."

Hunt was supposed to have a long-awaited surgery this week at Toronto General Hospital, but it was postponed.

"On April 21st, they called and said that it was cancelled indefinitely due to COVID and that they couldn't give me any updated on when it would be rebooked," she said.

Ontario's fiscal watchdog said it could take the province three and a half years to clear the surgical backlog from the pandemic.

The Financial Accountability Office projects there will be 419,200 delayed procedures by the end of September.

Hunt said she's trying to hold on to hope and stay positive during a difficult time.

"It's pretty devastating to hear that you're not going to get the help that you need," she said. "I was really looking forward to not living in quite as much pain as I live in daily."

Local hospitals are working through surgery backlogs after they were directed to ramp down to manage the impact of the third wave of the pandemic.

"Currently we have ramped our operating capacity down to 20 to 25 per cent of usually what we run," said Stephanie Pearsall, director of surgical services and the emergency department at St. Mary's General Hospital.

Pearsall said delays range from four to 13.5 months.

Officials with Cambridge Memorial Hospital said, as of Friday, there was a backlog of more than 2,400 procedures.

Hospitals are rescheduling:

  • Joint replacement
  • Urology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Hernia repairs
  • Other non-cancer surgeries including ENT, Plastics, Gynaecology, General and Ophthalmology Surgeries

Emergency and urgent surgeries are still going ahead.

Pearsall said staff at St. Mary's are looking for ways to help with the backlog, including extending hours, adding that patient care remains a priority.

"Please, if your symptoms change, let someone know, especially your physician," she said. "If your condition changes, go to the emergency department."

With files from The Canadian Press