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Patient angry after back surgery cancelled last minute to avoid overtime


A Ottawa woman says her back surgery was cancelled moments before she was supposed to go under the knife at the Ottawa Civic Hospital due to concerns about overtime.

On April 9, Ruth Mackenzie was scheduled for an operation to reduce the pain from her spinal stenosis — a chronic condition that sometimes forces her to lay flat for hours at a time.

“I went into the hospital was all prepped and ready in the waiting room on a gurney, on a bed, and was told after waiting for an hour that my surgery was cancelled because of overtime,” she said.

“I got to the door of the operating room, but I couldn’t go farther.”

Mackenzie said she had her surgery rescheduled just a month ago because flu season had reduced the number of available beds, but this latest last-minute cancellation is what’s frustrated her.

“It’s unbelievable that people are being bumped and put on lists and then they wait. I have no idea when I’m going to get this surgery done and I don’t have a life.”

Bumping hits family

Jennifer Christopher, Mackenzie’s daughter, said the delays have put more pressure on the family, which is helping Mackenzie live in her own home.

Her aunt was also travelling to Ottawa to help Mackenzie recover from the surgery.

“The half an hour overtime that they were going to have to incur has cost my family a significant amount,” Christopher said.

It has also raised questions for Christopher about the efficiency of the health system.

“What about all the people who are supposed to come behind her, who she has to bump off again?” she asked. “Because [my mother] can’t function. She has to move — and she can’t.”

Rescheduling not about cost: hospital

The Ottawa Hospital said it couldn’t comment on a specific case, but in a statement said that limiting operations that would run into overtime is not a financial consideration but rather about “creating optimal conditions for staff.”

“In cases where the first surgical case takes longer than expected, we may reschedule the subsequent scheduled surgery case of the day, to ensure optimal patient safety,” the statement said.

“We do our best to ensure patients are rescheduled in a way that minimizes impact for all concerned.”


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