VICTORIA -- Despite the promising news about increased vaccine supply and an accelerated timeline for first doses in the weeks ahead, the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt at Vancouver Island hospitals, where 12 non-urgent surgeries were cancelled last week.

“I think what you're seeing in Island Health is the ongoing significant pressure on the health-care system, partly related to COVID,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix on Thursday.

Dix said the 12 surgery cancellations between April 19 and 25 were not due to COVID-19 patients being transferred to the island from other health regions. But he acknowledged the strain of fighting the virus was a factor in the delays, in what was described as staffing and capacity issues.

“A year of the COVID-19 pandemic does put pressure on staff,” said Dix.

Christine Sorenson, president of the British Columbia Nurses’ Union, says burnout is a real problem and has triggered some staffing shortages.

“Last summer, we already knew that many of our members were showing early signs of exhaustion and burnout, and that is only getting worse,” said Sorenson.

Although there were only a dozen delayed surgeries in Island Health last week — a small portion of the 398 cancelled provincewide during the same week — more delays are happening now and will be announced next Thursday.