Liberals commit to improve wait times for hip, knee replacements

Manitoba wait times for knee and hip replacements "are the worst in the country" and the Liberals will change that if elected, says leader Dougald Lamont.

'Manitoba’s wait times for hip and knee replacements are the worst in the country,' says leader Dougald Lamont

The number of patients getting timely knee replacements in Manitoba declined each year since 2014, according to reports from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Manitoba wait times for knee and hip replacements "are the worst in the country" and the Liberals will change that if elected, says party leader Dougald Lamont.

On Sunday, Lamont cited Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) statistics suggesting wait times for both procedures are the longest in Canada and have worsened during Brian Pallister's time as premier.

In March, the CIHI released data showing the percentage of patients receiving cataract surgery or hip or knee replacement within the recommended period dropped again in 2017-18. It was the fourth year in a row wait times increased for those procedures in Manitoba, according to the CIHI.

Lamont said a Liberal plan would switch to a "patient-based" model for funding the procedures. The Liberals say the current block-funding model only allows a set number of surgeries each year, forcing some patients to wait longer. 

"Right now we have [operating rooms] that sit empty, we have surgeons who have time to do these operations and can't get into the [operating rooms] because the government is saying, well, you've hit your quota for the year," he said.

"That's no way to run a health-care system."

In 2018, Pallister's Progressive Conservative government announced funding for an additional 1,000 knee and hip surgeries — as well as 2,000 cataract surgeries — at a cost of $5.3 million. That amounts to a 25 per cent and 16 per cent increase for hip and knee replacements and cataracts respectively, a PC spokesperson said.

"The PC Party is committed to providing better health care sooner and we look forward to saying more on this topic later on in the campaign," the spokesperson added.

Lamont said the patient-based model would be cost-neutral because it would only pay for what is needed. He said right now, hospitals get paid the same per patient even when the patients require different levels of care. 

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont pledged to reduce wait times for hip and knee replacements if elected in September. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The party said the model results in more procedures being completed and shorter wait lists, as evidenced by comparatively shorter wait times in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. where it's used.

"Manitoba Liberals will end the practice of rationing care, get people joint replacements more quickly, and restore physiotherapy so people can recover faster," Lamont said in a statement.

"This is a plan that is more fair, more practical, and makes sure that health care dollars go where they are supposed to— caring for patients." 

The party also pledged to restore outpatient physiotherapy coverage that was cut by the Progressive Conservatives. 

"I spoke to a constituent who could not afford private physiotherapy and was having to rely on YouTube videos after knee replacement surgery," said Lamont. 

Lamont said this would cost around $2 million a year, but would provide gains in the long run because people could return to work faster.

"Good physiotherapy speeds recovery from surgery and in some cases can even even prevent surgery. Our goal is to get people back on their feet and mobile as soon as we can."

The provincial election takes place Sept. 10.

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With files from Holly Caruk


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