Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.Image Daily Hive

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health has said that  the public health-care system is being bolstered to help people living in pain get faster access to the surgery they need to enjoy an improved quality of life,we are taking an open, equitable approach and making sure people get timely care by dramatically improving hip and knee wait times in the North.

People living in northern British Columbia can look forward to reduced wait times for hip and knee surgeries, and a 70% increase in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, thanks to government’s new surgical and diagnostic strategy.

The number of hip and knee replacement surgeries provided at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) is expected to increase this year by 12%, for approximately 975 surgeries in 2018-19. In the North, 63% of all hip and knee surgeries are performed at UHNBC.

Three other hospitals – in Dawson Creek, Kitimat and Prince Rupert –  support a smaller caseload of these surgeries. Improvements are underway to bolster those services as well.

As part of the B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy, Northern Health will see a 70% increase in MRI exams, for a total of 13,000 exams this year in three hospitals: UHNBC, Mills Memorial and Fort St. John. Approximately $11 million in funding is being made available to increase MRI capacity provincewide in the public health system, and achieve a total of 225,000 MRI exams in 2018-19.

“Northern Health is pleased to take part in the strategy that is working to expand and improve the quality of our surgical program, and we welcome doing more for patients,” said Colleen Nyce, Northern Health’s board chair. “I am grateful to the staff and physcians at UHNBC. Their work is patient-centred, and they are commited to supporting the best health outcomes for all our patients.”

The UHNBC Hip and Knee Replacement Program is one of five programs the provincial government is implementing throughout the province, as one component of its new four-part surgical strategy. Last month, two other programs were announced, one at Vancouver General Hospital and the other for southern Vancouver Island. This provincial network of hip and knee replacement programs will address the long waits people face for these procedures.

Building on the innovations of the former Richmond Hip and Knee Reconstruction Project, the improvements being made to the program at UHNBC are designed to support increased surgical volumes, reduce wait times and improve continuity of care for patients by co-ordinating all the services a patient requires to prepare for, undergo and recover from surgery. The program at UHNBC includes:

  • dedicated operating room time;
  • pre- and post-surgical support;
  • centralized intake;
  • standardized assessment;
  • access to the first-available surgeon; and
  • ongoing program evaluation.

“I have always been an active person, and it was challenging to be sidelined by hip pain that prevented me from doing the things that I love,” said Andrew Watkinson, who underwent hip replacement surgery at UHNBC in February 2017. “My recovery was complete at around 12 weeks, defined by when I started running again, thanks to the excellent care I received leading up to, through, and following my surgery. I’ll have another chance to experience the improvements to the hip replacement program when I have my other hip replaced next month.”

In 2016-17, approximately 14,390 hip and knee surgeries were performed throughout the province. By 2018-19, more than 19,250 will be done. The additional surgeries will mean a 34% increase in hip and knee surgeries. This will significantly reduce the number of paitents waiting.

As of March 31, 2017, provincewide, 30% of people waiting for hip surgery and 38% of people waiting for knee surgery waited more than 26 weeks. For the same date, at UHNBC, approximately 38% of people waiting for hip replacement surgery, and 51% of people waiting for knee surgery, waited more than 26 weeks.

Under the provincial surgical strategy, which is being supported with ongoing targeted funding of $75 million starting in 2018-19, and increasing to $100 million in 2019-20, approximately 9,400 more publicly funded surgeries will be completed by the end of March 2019.

The strategy will improve timely access to surgery through a more efficient surgical system, and will help the Province catch up and keep up with demand, starting with hip and knee replacement surgery and dental surgery. It will also improve patients’ experiences, by focusing on improving surgical pathways, co-ordination of care and information provided to patients.