Sask. has longest wait times for knee, hip replacements in Canada, CIHI reports

Despite the provincial government’s ongoing efforts to improve surgical capacity – Saskatchewan still held the longest wait times for knee and hip replacements in Canada last year.

With a median wait time of 318 days for knee replacements and 232 days for hip replacements – Saskatchewan is ranked as last in both lists, according to data compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The national average for the two procedures sit at 161 and 131 days respectively.

According to the data, just 44 per cent of hip replacements and 31 per cent of knee replacements were completed within the benchmark waiting period of 26 weeks (182 days).

According to CIHI, Prince Edward Island is the next worst off – with residents in that province waiting 286 days for knee replacements and 231 days for hip replacements.

The data cited by the CIHI was compiled from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2023.

The NDP opposition presented the stats as a sign of failure by the government to properly address waitlists during question period on Tuesday.

“The median wait for hip replacements was 232 days but 10 per cent of patients were forced to wait more than 619 days or more,” rural and remote health critic Jared Clarke said during debate.

“How does the minister defend that?”

The province has touted that more than 16,000 orthopedic surgeries were completed last year – 5,300 of which were hip and knee surgeries.

“We did have a waitlist that grew during the pandemic as it did in other provinces. It reached a peak and we’re now reducing that,” Health Minister Everett Hindley told reporters.

“Last year we completed the highest number of surgeries in this province that we’ve ever seen.”

In March of 2023, the provincial government committed to pay $6 million to private provider Canadian Surgical Solutions to perform knee and hip replacements in Calgary, Alta.

The province followed through with a similar plan to address waitlist concerns for mammograms.

The agreement for knee and hip procedures expired last month – while the mammogram agreement is set to continue through to next year.

“It’s my understanding the contract expired at the end of March and I would expect that’s not happening any [longer],” Hindley said.

“I’ll take that back to our officials to see how that has worked out in terms of the existing contract and we’ll make a determination as to whether or not to do it again.”

The plans drew criticism from the official opposition when it was revealed that a subsidiary of Clearpoint Health Network had donated thousands of dollars to the Sask. Party since 2016.

When asked about what process was undertaken to choose the out-of-province provider for hip and knee replacements – Hindley stated that the decision happened prior to him becoming Minister of Health. However, he added that he was sure the process was “open and transparent.”

“As far as I know, and again this was before my time, but I’m not using that as an excuse … it would be an open and transparent process that would have been utilized to look and see if there’s an option to do that and that would have happened in this case, would be my expectation,” he said.

This is not the first time Saskatchewan has been ranked at the bottom of the country for waitlists.

In 2022, Sask. residents waited 467 days for knee replacements and 309 days for hip replacements.

“Saskatchewan has been last for knee and hip replacement surgeries since 2019,” Clarke said. “People are waiting months to years to get these important, life changing surgeries and we don’t think it’s fair that they’re waiting in pain.”


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