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‘It just got canceled’: St. Charles elective surgery backlog still has patients waiting

(Update: Adding video, comments from patient, info from St. Charles)

"There's a lot of people out here ... who need some kind of repair work done, and with this COVID thing going on.”

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Opal Larson was scheduled for a hip replacement at St. Charles Bend, back in March of last year. She's still waiting.

"So, it just got canceled,” Larson told NewsChannel 21 on Monday. “Every operation got canceled."

Canceled is a word she has heard a lot the last year and a half.

"There was about three times, and then it would get just dropped," Larson said.

Even as Central Oregon is starting to lift more COVID-19 restrictions, people are still having trouble scheduling elective surgeries.

The Prineville resident says she used to be active outdoors, hiking and working with horses or dogs.

"My hip had degenerated due to arthritis, just due to wear and tear over a lifetime," she said.

Now, the 75-year-old cannot walk.

"It's hard to have a normal life when you can't walk," Larson said.

She’s not alone.

St. Charles started delaying elective surgeries again in April, as a surge in COVID-19 cases pushed the hospital to 92 percent capacity.

As of Monday morning, the hospital had 29 COVID patients, with seven of them in the ICU.

"There's a lot of people out here who are basically in my age bracket who need some kind of repair work done," Larson said. "And with this COVID thing going on, everything has changed."

A St. Charles representative said Monday they've just opened up a new short-stay unit that could help alleviate the inpatient backlog.

But the wait for a procedure could depend on the patient’s doctor, as well as the type of surgery or procedure. One Bend doctor recently told a patient there was a nine-month backlog for over 200 people awaiting back surgeries.

"We're senior, we're retired, we're on Social Security,” Larson said. “That limits greatly, where you can go and what you can have done."

She said she is still waiting to get scheduled, and that an end to the pandemic would help greatly toward that.

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

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