B.C. vows to reduce surgical wait times for hip and knee replacements

British Columbia's premier says the province will address long wait-lists for hip and knee replacements, allowing an extra 4,000 people to have the surgeries in the coming year.

The province hopes to significantly reduce the number of people waiting over 6 months for a surgery

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces $175 million over two years to reduce wait times for hip and knee replacements on Mar. 21, 2018. (Christer Waara/CBC News)

British Columbia's premier says the province will address long wait-lists for hip and knee replacements, allowing an extra 4,000 people to have the surgeries in the coming year.

John Horgan says the investments will total $175 million over the next two years, with ongoing targeted funding in the years after.

"We're here to talk about trying to do a little bit more," said Horgan.

"People in communities right across B.C. [are] living in pain and living on wait-lists. So, it's our effort today to announce that we're going to do something about those wait-lists." 

On average, about 40 people every day in B.C. undergo a hip or knee replacement surgery. The province is hoping the new money, which was part of February's budget, will increase that to about 50 people per day.

The changes are modelled after work done at Richmond's hospital from 2004 to 2010 and include dedicated operating rooms for the hip and knee procedures, more support staff to allow a single point of access for patients and more data analysis to find open time slots for surgery across a region.

The provincial Minister of Health Adrian Dix sat down with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, to discuss what British Columbians can expect 14:22

Nearly 4 in 10 wait over 6 months

In 2005, health ministers for all provinces set a benchmark of a 26-week wait time for patients needing hip and knee replacements.

However, the latest figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show British Columbia was third from the bottom of the pack in 2016, with only 61 per cent of patients getting hip replacements within that benchmark.

Nova Scotia was in last place, with only 56 per cent of patients getting the surgery within 26 weeks, followed by New Brunswick, at 60 per cent, while the best outcomes were for patients in Ontario.

B.C. fared second worst in Canada when it came to patients needing knee replacements, with 47 per cent having the surgery within the benchmark, while Nova Scotia was at the bottom, with only 38 per cent of patients getting the surgery within 26 weeks.

Dix says the goal is to have 95 per cent of patients waiting less than 26 weeks for hip and knee surgeries within two years.

"This has been a significant change, using the public system to reduce wait times," he said. 

With files from Justin McElroy