An Ontario mother who shared her heartbreak over her toddler son’s life-saving heart surgery being delayed for months with CTV News Toronto earlier this week is now celebrating after the procedure was rescheduled to next week.
Since the end of May, Marina Pergat said her son Roman Tsoy’s surgery at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids has been cancelled four times citing a lack of available ICU nurses.
Twice the surgery was cancelled the morning of the scheduled procedure, she said.
However, the day after sharing her frustrations in an interview with CTV News Toronto on Wednesday, Pergat got a call from her son’s surgeon saying the surgery has been rebooked for 8 a.m. on Aug. 1.
The toddler hasn’t been able to go to daycare and has been taking medication for body pain, living with low oxygen levels because of the pressure on his heart.
“My tears turned to laughter. I can’t stop smiling,” Pergat said. “This is the best news we could have hoped for. This is the best outcome from these interviews with this fight we started.”
“I’m really grateful to everyone for their love and support, for praying for Roman. It was all worth it in the end,” she added.
The surgery is intended to increase blood flow towards the child’s feet and arms, allowing him to be more active, preventing fatigue, and prolonging his life span, his mother said.
Marina Pergat is desperate for her three-year-old son to receive a heart surgery that she says has been cancelled already four times this year. (CTV News Toronto)
When reached for comment Thursday, SickKids told CTV News Toronto that human resource shortages in healthcare are not unique to its facility.
“Hospitals across North America continue to experience challenges related to recruitment and retention,” a spokesperson for the hospital said. “This is particularly compounded by the specialized training required in a pediatric tertiary care hospital like SickKids.”
The hospital has revealed it has a significant surgical backlog of more than 6,500 with 67 per cent waiting past the recommended wait time. The province says more than 300 million dollars is going into pediatrics to help alleviate the backlog.
To combat staffing pressures, SickKids says it is “continuously recruiting and training clinical staff,” alongside introducing new residency training programs for critical care, implementing flexible scheduling, and utilizing paid nursing students.
The NDP blames Health Minister Sylvia Jones for the delays.
“This minister is failing at her job,” France Gelinas, NDP health critic, said. “We know how to do this, we know how to provide quality care. Respect the people who work in our health-care system.”
The Ford government has recently trumpeted an uptick in nurse registrations in the province – a trend disputed in a new survey commissioned by an association representing Ontario RPNs. They say more than 60 per cent of nurses are planning to leave the industry due to growing threats to the health-care system.
The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) of Ontario, which provides independent analysis on the province’s finance, that found in the third quarter of 2022 there were more than 14,500 nursing vacancies — 8 per cent of total positions compared to 3.1 per cent pre-pandemic.
A March 2023 report published by the FAO warned that “a lack of hospital capacity and staffing, affects the ability of hospitals to … reduce the surgery waitlist and wait times to pre-pandemic levels.”
The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) would like to see a stronger commitment from the government in addressing the hospital backlog.
“We need to open up the ORs that we have the capacity to be able to perform the surgeries on a 24-hour basis in, to get the backlog moving,” Angela Preocanin with the ONA said.
Meanwhile, Pergat says she feels the pain of other families and wants all children waiting to get essential care to receive it on time.
“I really hope this is going to attract the attention of the government of our health-care system because this is a huge issue,” Pergat said.