Manitoba woman waiting for hip surgery calls health minister's thoughts and prayers 'useless'

A Winnipeg woman facing an 26-month wait for hip surgery had a blunt response to Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon’s offer of “thoughts and prayers” to people whose medical procedure have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

130,000 estimated to be waiting for surgeries and other procedures in Manitoba

Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon says she empathizes with people whose medical procedures have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her "thoughts and prayers" are with them. (Global News pool camera)

A Winnipeg woman facing an 26-month wait for hip surgery had a blunt response to Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon's offer of "thoughts and prayers" to people whose medical procedure have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Thoughts and prayers are useless for me," said Allison Marion.

The 67-year-old suffers from osteoarthritis, which causes her great pain while doing everyday activities like showering or cooking meals.

Health officials told her it would be eight months before she could see a surgical consultant, and another 18 months after that before she could get the surgery. 

Thoughts and prayers do nothing to reduce Marion's pain — for which she takes prescribed Tylenol 3 up to six times a day — or shorten her wait for surgery. 

"It's not going to get me on the [surgery] list any sooner. It's not going to make me stop taking Tylenol. It's not going to make me have a nice long hot shower or a bath.

"Half the time I don't even sleep on my own bed because it's too uncomfortable. So thoughts and prayers are useless for me," Marion said.

Allison Marion suffers from debilitating osteoarthritis in her hip. She wants the province to do more to address the surgery backlog, which is affecting her personally. She has to wait more than two years for her surgery. (Submitted by Allison Marion)

After announcing last week that more surgeries would have to be postponed to increase intensive care capacity in the wake of rising COVID-19 numbers, Gordon said on Monday she empathized with people impacted by the decision.

"My thoughts and prayers are with you and any family member or friend or relative you have that is experiencing their surgery being postponed or their diagnostic test," Gordon said after a news conference on Monday.

There are currently 146 Manitobans in hospital with COVID-19, including 31 in intensive care, the province said in a news release.

Meanwhile, there are 130,000 people waiting for surgeries and diagnostic procedures because of the pandemic, Doctors Manitoba has said.

Of those, 52,000 are surgeries, 41,000 are diagnostic imaging procedures (like MRIs, CAT scans and ultrasounds) and 35,000 are other procedures, like endoscopies, mammograms and allergy tests, the organization said.

Premier Heather Stefanson promised to create a task force to deal with the backlog, but on Monday Gordon announced that task force won't begin working until after Stefanson's throne speech on Nov. 23.

The province committed $50 million to addressing postponed medical procedures in its budget for the year, and some of that money will go toward the task force, Gordon said.

Seeking help outside of Manitoba

Any progress on the backlog will come too late for people who have been forced to look outside the province — and in some cases, who have paid out of pocket to have procedures performed in other countries. 

Jennifer Agnew has an appointment to meet with a surgeon in Regina, Sask., on Dec. 6. Like Marion, Agnew needs hip surgery, and already faced an 18-month wait for the procedure when her surgery was cancelled. 

Although she needs the surgery to end the pain she suffers as a result of hip dysplasia, Angew said she feels guilt about getting her surgery done sooner than others in Manitoba.

"That I should just, you know, suck it up and wait my turn in line, like everyone else has to do, because everyone that's waiting for these surgeries is in the same boat," she said.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of the national advocacy group CanAge, says the backlog has the biggest impact on seniors, who will suffer more severe outcomes. 

"The province needs coordinated emergency action on the backlog now," she said.

In addition to the funding toward clearing the backlog, the province has put out a request for proposals for service providers to help perform some operations and tests.

With files from Rachel Bergen, Marianne Klowak and Cameron MacLean


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