Injunction blocks planned surgical slowdown

Anesthesiologists back in court in two weeks to defend job action plans

B.C.’s health authorities have won a temporary court injunction barring anesthesiologists from a planned job action to disrupt thousands of elective surgeries this week.

The B.C. Anesthesiologists Society (BCAS), which is in a labour dispute with the province, had vowed to reduce service at all Lower Mainland hospitals outside of Vancouver, as well as others on Vancouver Island and in the Interior, starting April 2.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling Friday freezes that strategy until a full hearing can be heard on the injunction request April 18.

Society president Dr. Jeff Rains said members intend to fully abide by the judge’s instructions.

He would not say whether anesthesiologists will go ahead with the job action if the injunction request is rejected in court later this month.

“We’ll have to just see what comes out in the hearing,” Rains said.

“From the very beginning our path forward has not been as an end goal to withdraw services from patients,” he said. “Our goal is to improve services to patients.

“With or without an injunction, with or without service reductions, we still need a process to deal with the issues critical to anesthesia care in this province.”

Interior Health president and CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny, speaking on behalf of all health authorities, said the injunction was necessary because urgent and emergency surgeries could have been compromised.

He said anesthesiologists created confusion by suggesting they could do all needed procedures, but after regular hours, threatening to delay urgent and emergency procedures that normally get priority at those times.

The health authorities have also warned anesthesiologists that they can be found in breach of their contracts if they withdraw service and they could be sued for any extra costs incurred by the health care system.

Health authorities sent out 3,237 letters to patients last week warning their surgeries may be rescheduled, with 1,105 patients in Fraser Health receiving the advisory.

Patients most likely to be affected by any future job action are ones awaiting non-urgent procedures such as hip or knee replacements and cataract surgeries.

All emergency and urgent surgery, including urgent joint replacements and cardiac or cancer-related surgeries, will not be affected.

The BCAS said its planned slowdown would be comparable to staffing levels health authorities deal with at Christmas holidays.

Anesthesiologists are trying to pressure the province to allow their society to bargain separately, rather than under the umbrella of the B.C. Medical Association, which they say does not represent their interests.

The BCAS, which represents some but not all anesthesiologists, gave notice three months ago of its threat to withdraw service if the dispute was not settled.

The society had said most of the 250 anesthesiologists in the Lower Mainland or on Vancouver Island were poised to cut their hours 30 per cent, affecting all Fraser Health hospitals.

Health Minister Mike de Jong previously accused the group of holding patients hostage in a bid to win higher wages.

The province says anesthesiologists make about $340,000 a year with almost none of the overhead expenses of other doctors, and that their pay levels have climbed 36 per cent over the past decade, compared to 22 per cent for general practitioners.

De Jong called the threat of a service withdrawal “unprofessional” and referred the matter to the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons for possible disciplinary action.

Rains said any attempt by the province to intimidate or punish anesthesiologists would only backfire by worsening surgery waits and making new anesthesiologists less likely to move to B.C.

“Removing people’s licences? How is that going to help patient care across the province? It’s only going to make things worse.”

Just Posted

Opioid overdoses killing three people a month in Chilliwack

35 deaths in 2018 locally compare to 23 in 2017, 13 in 2016 up from about five per year before that

More people in Chiliwack coming in to shelters to get out of the cold

Ruth and Naomi’s went over-capacity this week to accommodate shelter guests coming in from the cold

Agassiz break and enter suspect arrested

The Chilliwack man faces charges relating to break and enters throughout Agassiz

Outdoor rink, lagoon improvements on the agenda for Harrison

The projects are intended to increase tourism numbers and infrastructure in the resort village

Chilliwack parent urges fellow dog owners to keep Fido off school grounds

Risks of harmful encounters between kids on and dogs are too high, says Chilliwack mom

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Prominent B.C. realtor says he doesn’t know how child porn got on his computer

Closing arguments heard in Ian Meissner’s Chilliwack trial for accessing, possessing child porn

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Avalanche control planned tomorrow on Highway 1

The highway will be closed in the morning east of Revelstoke

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Mayors approve SkyTrain extension to UBC

Next step is a business plan and public consultation

Most Read