During the pandemic, what constitutes essential surgery is murkier than ever

plastic surgery ed web
Image by: Ashley Chen

Despite non-essential surgeries being on hold, plastic surgeries have continued in the private sector. But we shouldn’t be so quick to point fingers at individuals receiving enhancements right now; rather, we should be questioning the government’s murky guidelines for what’s considered essential.

A recent CBC article details doctors’ worries that plastic surgeries in the private sector are drawing away much-needed hospital staff in Quebec.

While understaffed hospitals are a great concern right now, we should hesitate to blame health care workers for staffing shortages.

It’s not uncommon for medical staff to have student loans to pay off or families to support. Considering the private health care sector offers both more money and safer conditions, it’s no wonder hospital staff are gravitating toward more lucrative surgeries.

That said, most plastic surgeries hardly seem essential.

In Ontario, elective and non-emergency surgeries have been delayed to make room for COVID-19 patients in hospitals. The surgeries being put on hold in hospitals should get precedence and resources over cosmetic ones. Yet, plastic surgeries continue in the private sector.

While plastic surgery encompasses treatments that the Editorial Board would consider essential—such as gender confirmation surgery—there’s no reason surgeries with the sole purpose of enhancing a person’s aesthetic should be performed right now.

As Canada continues to see record COVID-19 numbers, it’s important the government answer understaffed hospitals’ calls for help, whether that means putting purely aesthetic plastic surgeries on hold or giving hospitals more resources.

The government must also fix its messaging.

Trudeau has been urging the public to limit contact and stay home when possible for months. With December’s lockdown and the recent stay-at-home order, all unessential businesses have been forced to close.

The rules and regulations behind this order, as well as the criteria for being deemed “essential,” are murky at best. The fact that non-emergency surgeries are being postponed while plastic surgeries continue elsewhere illustrates the mixed messaging that comes with these rules.

If the government wants to drive home the importance of staying home, it should place restrictions on purely aesthetic plastic surgeries.

That said, we shouldn’t give individuals receiving plastic surgery any flack. We don’t know their circumstances nor how long they’ve waited to have surgery done. If a business is open, people will inevitably spend time and money there.

But if plastic surgeries are pulling resources away from hospitals when they need it most, placing restrictions on them is the way for the government to go.

Journal Editorial Board


Covid-19, health care

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Queen's Journal

© All rights reserved.

Back to Top
Skip to content