Growing number of Manitobans waiting longer than recommended for hip, knee, cataract surgeries: report

There are now more Manitobans waiting longer than the recommended time period for some health-care services than there were two years ago, according to a new report released on Thursday.

Canadian Institute for Health Information report finds Manitoba at or near bottom of list on wait times

Manitoba ranked last among provinces for the percentage of people waiting longer than recommended for cataract surgery, according to a new report on wait times from CIHI. (CBC)

There are now more Manitobans waiting longer than the recommended time period for some health-care services than there were two years ago, according to a report released on Thursday.

The percentage of patients who received hip replacements, knee replacements and cataract surgery within the recommended time period fell between 2015 and 2017, according to the new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The percentage of patients who received hip replacements within the recommended six-month time period fell from 69 per cent in 2015 to 53 per cent in 2017. Forty-three per cent of patients received knee replacements within the recommended six months in 2017, down from 64 per cent two years earlier.

And patients who received cataract surgery within the recommended 16-week time period fell from 41 per cent to 32 per cent.

The new numbers are part of a CIHI report on wait times for medical services, which compared wait times across all provinces.

Manitoba ranked at or near the bottom in several areas in the report, with only Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island experiencing longer wait times for hip replacements, and only Nova Scotia experiencing longer wait times for knee replacements.

Manitoba once again ranked last among the provinces for cataract surgery wait times, the report says. CIHI released a report in 2017 showing 34 per cent of patients got the surgery within the recommended time period, meaning that number fell by two per cent between last year and this year.

'Supporting innovation': health minister

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the figures provide the first indicators of the impact of the changes the Progressive Conservative government is making to the health-care system.

"[Premier Brian Pallister has] rushed these changes into the health care system, and in that rush he forgot that he might actually be making things worse, and now it looks like that's what's happening," Kinew said.

Only Nova Scotia had a higher percentage of patients waiting longer than the recommended time period for knee replacements than Manitoba. (The Associated Press)

In a statement, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province is "supporting innovation" in cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements, while working to increase the number of surgeries performed.

"[The] report validates the work we have already done with the Wait Times Reduction Task Force report, which recommended a number of changes necessary to improve access for Manitobans," Goertzen said in the statement.

Around 3,000 hip and knee surgeries are performed in Winnipeg every year and demand continues to grow, said orthopedic surgeon Jack MacPherson in the province's statement.

MacPherson is the co-chair of the Wait Times Reduction Task Force's priority procedures wait times reduction committee.

At a news conference on Thursday, Goertzen said noted that data used in the CIHI report were compiled between April and September 2017, three months before the task force delivered its report. 

Privatization makes problem worse: NDP

But Kinew said while demographic changes such as an aging population put increasing strain on health services, those trends have been clear for some time, and the health system needs to keep up.

By privatizing outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy, Kinew said the province risks making the problem even worse.

"Because the Pallister government cut outpatient therapy, you're going to have folks going to hip and knee replacements [and] on the other end of them, being more likely to re-injure themselves, maybe have to get repeat surgeries, and the whole problem is just going to get amplified."

Kinew said he worries that the increasing wait times for cataract surgery will lead to privatization of the service, something then-CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Milton Sussman said was a possibility last year.

One of the new practices introduced by the Pallister government to speed up wait times was to allow no-sedation cataract surgeries. So far, 200 no-sedation cataract removals have been performed at Misericordia Health Centre since August 2017.

Goertzen said the province is looking at ways to increase the number of cataract surgeries performed in the province.

"If we're going to be moving to more procedures, I'd certainly be interested in looking at an RFP [request for proposals] to see how the system could respond in terms of getting the best value for money," he said. "A better price means more procedures, which means less wait times and more people getting what they need.

"That doesn't mean the system itself couldn't bid on them," he added.

The provincial statement also says Winnipeg is the third Canadian city to offer same-day hip surgery, which uses a special anesthetic and doesn't require patients to stay overnight in hospital. So far, 36 patients have undergone that procedure.

The Wait Times Reduction Task Force report also recommends improving preventative health measures like encouraging exercise and healthy diets, which Kinew said would reduce the need for hip and knee replacements.

Goertzen said Shared Health is reviewing the task force's report and the province will release its response to the recommendations soon.


Cameron MacLean is a journalist for CBC Manitoba living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience reporting in the city and across Manitoba, covering a wide range of topics, including courts, politics, housing, arts, health and breaking news. Email story tips to