GBGH offering wide range of surgeries locally

Four surgeons in dark blue scrubs pose outside the operation desk.

Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) is working toward expanding its general surgery program to ensure the community and family physicians are aware patients can receive their care closer to home and with shorter wait times for procedures. Members of GBGH’s general surgical team (from left) : Dr. Bonnie Shum, Dr. Katherine Aucoin, Dr. Paige Churchill and Dr. Eileen Sacks (absent – Dr. Les Walc). 

April 5, 2022 – Over the course of the pandemic, surgical programs across the province faced multiple ramp-downs and delays for patients as hospitals managed surges in admissions related to COVID-19. While Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) reduced non-urgent and elective surgeries and procedures in alignment with provincial direction during the pandemic, the hospital’s surgical program continued to work on a major growth plan. The main objective of the plan includes two important aspects – ensure local patients know they can receive the surgical care they need at their home hospital, and reduce wait times, made worse by the pandemic.

Data gathered by GBGH about patient patterns for surgical procedures indicates more than 3,700 local patients from Midland, Penetanguishene and the surrounding area are currently travelling elsewhere in Simcoe County, or outside the region, for procedures which could have been completed at GBGH. Specifically, only 22 per cent of local patients received their surgical care at GBGH with more than 40 per cent leaving Simcoe County entirely. This equates to more than 7,500 hours of time and 600,000 km in distance.

In addition to reducing travel for patients, GBGH has the available operating room time and space to perform more surgeries, which will reduce wait times for patients in its region.

“With our recent program expansion, we are able to offer some of the shortest surgical wait times in the province,” says Dr. Paige Churchill, chief of Surgery, GBGH. “I’m very encouraged by GBGH’s wait times performance, where the majority of elective general surgeries are completed within eight weeks of booking. We are also out-performing provincial wait time targets for colonoscopy procedures in our Ambulatory Care department.”

GBGH offers a wide variety of general surgical procedures through the surgical and ambulatory care departments. This includes advanced laparoscopic surgery for both bowel operations and hernia repair, breast cancer surgery, GI endoscopy, and minor procedures such as carpal tunnel release, skin cancer excision or vasectomies.

There is a team of five general surgeons practicing at GBGH, including Dr. Paige Churchill, Dr. Eileen Sacks, Dr. Les Walc, Dr. Katherine Aucoin and Dr. Bonnie Shum. Dr. Shum, who was an acute care surgeon in Hamilton, recently relocated to the area and hopes to contribute to the hospital’s innovative future. She has an interest in minimally invasive surgeries, particularly in the colorectal and hernia field, as well as quality improvement and safety.

“I was drawn to the team at GBGH last summer when I started as a locum surgeon,” says Dr. Shum “The group here is extremely supportive, and I can see myself thriving in this community while simultaneously establishing a full practice.”

To ensure increased awareness regarding the variety of general surgeries performed at GBGH and how to refer patients, the hospital is proactively conducting outreach to local family physicians and nurse practitioners. Patients can ask their family physicians about the referral process to have their general surgery completed at GBGH. In addition to general surgery, GBGH’s surgical program also performs specialty surgical procedures (orthopedic, ophthalmology, gynecology, urology, ear/nose/throat) through physician referral.