Manitoba

Winnipeg seniors awaiting knee surgery opposes relocation of outpatient service to HSC

A Winnipeg senior waiting for knee surgery wants to know why she's expected to hoof it all the way to Health Sciences Centre, bemoaning the closure of Concordia Hospital's physio and occupational therapy program for knee and hip surgery patients.

'I don't know how they're going to accommodate all those patients,' says Lea Versluis

Winnipeg seniors don't want to lose the outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy program at Concordia Hospital.

A Winnipeg senior waiting for knee surgery wants to know why she's expected to hoof it all the way to Health Sciences Centre, bemoaning the closure of Concordia Hospital's physio and occupational therapy program for knee and hip surgery patients.

Some outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy services will be consolidated at the Health Sciences Centre in the coming months, following the closure of all outpatient programs at hospitals across the city.

Many knee and hip surgeries in the city are done at Concordia Hospital, with followup care happening at the Concordia Hip and Knee Institute next door, which is soon scheduled to end.

"I'm so upset about it. I think it's just going to be a horrible, horrible experience for patients. I don't know how they're going to accommodate all these patients into the Health Sciences Centre," said Lea Versluis, a Winnipeg senior on the waitlist for knee surgery.

She had her other knee replaced at the Concordia Hospital, and participated in programs before the surgery and post-op physiotherapy classes at the Hip and Knee Institute with other patients recovering from the same operation. She made a full recovery.
Versluis had her other knee replaced at the Concordia Hospital, and participated in programs before the surgery and post-op physiotherapy classes with other patients recovering from the same operation. (www.wrha.mb.ca)

"It was just a full circle," she said. "They treat you like a real human being. Not a number."

She said the 'circle of care' is complete at Concordia, and if services are relocated, she fears care will suffer. 

"Why would you bother with a Knee and Hip Institute, when you've got the hospital set up right next door to do the surgery, and the next step is you have the physio. And you take that away? It doesn't make any sense," she said.

The WRHA announced Tuesday it's developing a clinical assessment tool to determine whether patients are eligible for outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy, reversing earlier plans to base a person's eligibility for service on their income. Anyone who does not qualify under the new clinical criteria will have to access outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy services from the private sector.

"Am I going to get lost in the shuffle of the criteria? We don't know what it is," said Versluis.

"That doesn't seem to really make people at ease."

Difficult to get to HSC

Relocating the service to the Health Sciences Centre is also a concern for seniors, especially with the centralized location and parking challenges that already exist in the area.

"Most of these people, let's face it, are either walking with a walker or are in a wheelchair when they come in. They can't go that far," said Marg Ackerman, a volunteer with the outpatient physiotherapy program at the Victoria General Hospital.

"I know it's valuable. I know that we've taken people that can hardly bend their knee and got them back to walking. and walking normally. And those guys do wonderful things if you just let them do it."

Like how many miles are you going to have to make people walk to get to physio?- Versluis

She has had two hip replacement surgeries and is waiting for knee replacement surgery.

"Like how many miles are you going to have to make people walk to get to physio?"

Both she and Versluis worry about the extra workload for physiotherapists at the HSC if the outpatient physio and occupational therapy is transferred there, and the possibility of a longer wait to be seen after knee surgery.  

A Winnipeg senior waiting for knee surgery wants to know why she's expected to hoof it all the way to Health Sciences Centre, bemoaning the closure of Concordia Hospital's physio and occupational therapy program for knee and hip surgery patients. 1:57

"That's one of the most important things, that you have to get moving, immediately after those staples are removed," said Versluis.

"How long are you going to have to wait before you're set up in a physio program? Because if you have to wait any longer than a week, you're going to lose your mobility. Especially the older patients."

On Tuesday, WRHA chief nursing officer Lori Lamont announced that outpatient physiotherapy services at HSC will still be consolidated, with more details coming in the next days and weeks.

'There aren't enough people to do that'

The president of the union representing those workers is eager to get that information, but said so far it doesn't appear to open up any new physiotherapy or occupational therapy positions at HSC.

"And I can't accept that. I don't understand it," said Bob Moroz, the president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

"Because if we're offering more therapies, we can't possibly be considering having the existing staff at Health Sciences provide that increased level of care to Manitobans and have that work. There aren't enough people to do that," he added.

The changes are all part of the WRHA's plan to save $83 million as mandated by the provincial government.

Versluis wonders what the long term costs will be if seniors lose their mobility after surgery.

She credits the outpatient program at Concordia Hospital for allowing her to continue living in her home and community.

"If I hadn't had that I'd still be sitting here I think. I don't think I'd be walking," she said.

About the Author

Erin Brohman

Health reporter

Erin Brohman is a former pediatric nurse at the Stollery Children Hospital in Edmonton and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. After graduating from King's College with a journalism degree, she took off to Yellowknife to work for CBC North for nearly two years, then settled in Winnipeg. At CBC Manitoba she blends her interests in health care and sharing people's stories. Story tip? Email erin.brohman@cbc.ca.