‘Emotionally, I am drained:’ Winnipeg man’s cancer surgery cancelled at last minute

A Winnipeg man who waited months for prostate cancer surgery is now left to wait even longer. David Gaboury told CTV News he went in for his prostatectomy, a procedure where the prostate is either partially or entirely removed, on Friday, December 16, 2022, only to have it cancelled at the very last second. He told CTV News to say he is disappointed is an understatement.

“Emotionally I am drained by it, there’s no other way to describe it,” Gaboury said.

Gaboury was diagnosed with prostate cancer six months ago. He said the cancer was caught very early, but his doctor told him he would need surgery to treat it. In October, he was given his surgery date of Dec. 16 and Gaboury had been preparing for the day ever since.

He said he went to Grace Hospital for the procedure a few hours before the scheduled start time, preparations started, and he was told he would be given an IV.

“I waited and waited for the IV to come and three hours later they came back to tell me, ‘well you’re not going to get the IV because your surgery has been cancelled because of lack of beds,'” Gaboury explained.

Gaboury said he was shocked to learn there was not a bed put aside for him since his surgery was not elective and it was scheduled months in advance.

“There are bound to be things that can’t be planned for but there just doesn’t seem to be the capacity to meet that requirement and still do their regularly scheduled surgeries,” he said.

A spokesperson for Shared Health tells CTV News it can appreciate that any surgical postponement is concerning for patients and their families – particularly for those experiencing cancer.

“This is why cancer surgeries continue to be prioritized by Manitoba’s surgical program, as they have been throughout the pandemic,” reads the written response.

The spokesperson also said postponements of cancer surgeries are exceedingly rare, with three occurring at Grace Hospital in the past seven months. They explained it does happen sometimes because of a variety of reasons, like staff and bed availability, patient fitness and an unexpected surge in emergency surgeries – the latter of which occurred last Friday at the Grace.

“There were more than 10 emergency patient admissions for surgery at the hospital on Friday. All but one elective procedure was postponed that day as a result in order to maintain inpatient capacity at the hospital, with surgeons at the Grace pivoting their focus to emergency patients and individuals with urgent cancer cases,” reads the statement.

Shared Health specific cases but generally, a postponement of a cancer case would only occur following consultation with the patient’s surgeon and the site lead for surgery and both would need to agree that delaying the surgery would cause the patient no long-term negative medical outcomes. Any delayed cancer surgery would normally be urgently rescheduled in consultation with the patient’s surgeon.

Gaboury is keeping his unused hospital bag packed even though he doesn’t know when his surgery will be rescheduled.

His concern is the cancer may spread before that day comes.

“I think that this needs to be addressed not just for myself but in general,” he said. “How many others are going to be cancelled and what’s going to be the effect on people’s health?” 

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