Horizon Health eliminates year or more waitlist for hip, knee replacements

Horizon Health Network has eliminated its list of patients waiting a year or more for hip and knee replacements.

According to a news release from the health authority, this same waitlist had been at about 700, with cases surpassing that one-year mark each day.

Amy McCavour, Horizon’s co-leader of surgical services, said it’s a significant milestone.

In the past year alone, she said about 1,500 hip and knee replacements were performed.

A portrait of a woman.
Amy McCavour, Horizon’s co-lead of surgical services, said one thing that helped was adding hip and knee surgeries to the Upper River Valley Hospital. (Horizon/Zoom)

“It is considered an elective surgery, but … a lot of people would argue it’s not exactly elective,” she said.

“They are among the top three performed surgeries in Canada — hips and knees.”

During COVID-19, elective surgeries were cancelled for two months, creating a backlog. But the issue predated the pandemic, with one doctor saying that a lack of staff was at the root of the problem.

McCavour said those still on the list for their procedure are waiting fewer than 300 days.

An x-ray of a hip with a person's hand holding a template up against it
A file photo shows a doctor holding a template of part of an artificial hip against an x-ray prior to performing a minimally invasive hip replacement surgery. Five out of 10 hip replacements in New Brunswick were completed within 230 days from October to December 2023, according to the province. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

She said two of the things that helped included adding hip and knee surgeries to the Upper River Valley Hospital and running operating rooms a bit later than usual in Saint John.

Dr. Patricia Bryden, co-lead of surgical services and a retired surgeon of more than 30 years, said cutting wait times was a team effort, and each zone did whatever was best for them to increase access for orthopedic patients. 

“It goes beyond the OR teams,” she said. 

Bryden said patient flow was key, and physiotherapists, occupational therapists and pharmacists were also part of the lift to get the job done.

A smiling woman with a short black bob with bangs.
Dr. Patricia Bryde, surgical services co-lead, said Horizon has plans for how to stay up to date with hip and knee surgery referrals and maintain the waitlist properly. (Submitted by Horizon Health Network)

The Government of New Brunswick has an online portal that provides surgical wait times for different types of procedures, depending on where they’re performed. The current statistics listed are based on surgeries completed from October to December 2023.

According to that portal, at all facilities provincewide, five out of 10 hip replacements were completed within 230 days and nine out of 10 were completed within 413 days. 

The same portal shows slightly higher figures for knee replacements, showing that five out of 10 knee replacements were completed within 267 days and nine out of 10 in 527 days.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Nicole Bourque, regional assistant director of surgical services at Vitalité Health Network, said for all surgeries, Vitalité will have eliminated the waitlist by early April for those waiting a year or more.

For hip and knee replacements specifically, the statement said wait times vary from six months to a year, depending on the surgeon. 

Next goals

Bryden said new names are added to the list every day, but Horizon has plans to stay up to date and maintain the waitlist properly. 

One of those initiatives includes a central referral system, where primary care providers or physiotherapists will refer patients to a central intake area, and patients can see the availability of surgeons and their wait times.

Bryden said patients will still have a choice. They could choose to be referred to the surgeon with the shortest wait time or someone else, but at least they are aware of the wait time going into it. 

 A doctor holds a model of a cementless hip replacement.
A file photo shows a doctor holding a model of a cementless hip replacement. From October to December 2023, the province shows that five out of 10 knee replacements were done within 267 days. (The Associated Press)

She said the network is also trying to capture statistics on wait times from the moment a patient is referred by a primary care provider to when they see an orthopedic surgeon.

“That’s a time that we haven’t been able to capture,” Bryden said. 

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