CALGARY -- Increasing COVID-19 cases in Alberta means more non-urgent or elective surgeries will be put on hold as priority turns to treating infected patients.

Brenda Burger says she received a referral for hip surgery in May of last year and is still waiting for an appointment. Burger says her doctor told her the pandemic is the reason for the delay and she might get in next year.

“I just feel like I can’t wait any longer,” she said. “It’s disappointing and hard to handle.”

The issue is not unique to Alberta and was addressed at a press conference with Canada’s chief public health officer Friday. Dr. Theresa Tam says the national average case count is now over 4,300 cases reported daily over the last seven days. Tam said Western provinces saw weekly increases in daily hospitalizations, ranging from 24 per cent to more than 50 per cent compared to last week.

“Hospitals are being forced to make the difficult decision to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in areas of the country and health-care workers are exhausted everywhere.”

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it has rebooked all surgeries that were postponed between March 18 to May 4 and is still currently at 88 per cent of pre-COVID-19 surgical activity.

Furthermore, since Oct. 23, AHS says about 30 per cent of scheduled non-emergency surgeries in the Edmonton zone will be postponed as part of measures aimed at reducing demand on acute care hospitals.

There are currently no additional postponed or delayed scheduled surgeries in Calgary but Burger is worried the rise in cases will eventually force hospitals here to make the same call.

The 59-year-old is a long-time figure skating coach and says the pain she feels in her hip makes it hard to walk let alone do her job.

“Even just getting to the arena to walk. Anytime I have to walk it’s a strain. I’m afraid of falling on the ice. It doesn’t take much to trip if you’re stiff.”

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 182 days is the benchmark for hip surgery in Alberta and 64 per cent of patients hit that in Alberta.

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj works in the urgent care unit at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre and says he understands patients’ frustration.

“There is no an easy solution,” he said. “I agree that patients are incredibly frustrated by the strain the health-care system is under and the fact we can’t provide excellent care for absolutely everybody. By excellent care meaning sticking to the schedule and having to bump their surgery sometimes many times.”

Burger says while she waits for an appointment, her doctor prescribed opioid painkillers but she refuses to take them because they are highly addictive. She is hoping there aren’t any more delays and says her best bet is a cancellation.

“I’m ready to go if there is an opening. If there is a cancellation I’m ready tomorrow.”