New Brunswick

Couple beg Premier Higgs to speed up year-long wait times for hip and knee surgeries

Some patients in need of a hip or knee replacement wait more than 16 months for surgery.

Peter Moore is 'in too much pain to even dream' of life after hip surgery

Peter and Barbie Moore travelled on a Caribbean cruise last year. Peter was in so much pain, he wasn't able to leave the ship to visit any of the ports. (Barbie Moore/Submitted)

Peter and Barbie Moore dreamed of travelling to Florida every winter to go golfing and enjoy the sunshine once they were able to retire.

Peter, now 66, worked for decades at Canada Bread, retiring as a sales manager. His wife stayed at home to care for their two children.

But at the beginning of this year, Peter felt a familiar pain in his left hip as he was laying down moulding at his daughter's house. 

He has had hip problems before and he knew something was wrong.

Over the summer, Peter was told he would need hip replacement surgery and he'd have to wait a year to get it.

"It's very frustrating," said Barbie, 59.

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"We're losing very precious time that we should be enjoying."

Basically, he just feels helpless and hopeless at this point.- Barbie Moore

The couple has been married for 32 years. But Barbie said her husband is not the same man he was.

She called him the Energizer bunny who has always had trouble sitting still.

In 1996, the couple inherited a one hectare property in Mechanic Settlement by the Kennebecasis River, about 76 kilometres southwest of Moncton.

Peter, who's six foot one and weighs about 190 pounds, would cut and pile firewood for their house. Over the years he helped rebuild their home and beautified their property by cutting down nearby trees and building a stone wall. He even built a foot bridge by the river so Barbie could go look at the water.  

Now, he sits in his chair in the sun room and looks out at the birds at the bird feeders or he'll watch a movie that his daughter has downloaded for him.

A different kind of pain

She said he's quiet now, and easily irritated by Barbie or their German Shepherds, Finn and Tessa.

"He's short because he's in agony."

When the couple decides to go for a drive, he physically has to lift his legs into their Toyota Corolla.

And when they go grocery shopping, Barbie has to run inside to grab a cart so her husband will have something to lean on.

Peter is not one to sit still. He could always be found working on his property he inherited in 1996. He also helped rebuild his family home. (Barbie Moore/Submitted)

"Just watching him suffer and be so limited as to what he can and cannot do is hard."

Peter had one hip replaced seven years ago, followed by a spinal fusion surgery three years ago. 

"He's never experienced pain like this."

Barbie wrote a letter to Dr. Michael Forsythe, Peter's orthopedic surgeon at the Moncton Hospital, earlier this fall to see if something else could be done.

Peter spent a lot of time beautifying his property before his left hip started to bother him earlier this year. (Barbie Moore/Submitted)

Forsythe called to express his sympathy and told Barbie there were 200 patients waiting for hip replacement surgery. 

He reiterated Peter will have to wait until August 2021 for surgery. 

"Basically, he [Peter] just feels helpless and hopeless at this point." 

Life after surgery

The wait has also put a lot more responsibility on Barbie.

She gets the wood to put in the fire. She takes the dogs for walks, retrieves his medication and heads to the freezer when she needs to take something out for supper.

"Every movement is just so painful for him," she said. "It's hard on him and its hard on the ones he loves."

Sometimes she tries to talk about what life will be like after COVID-19 and the hip surgery, but her husband can't even look that far ahead. 

"[He says]I'm in too much pain to even dream."

A promise to reduce wait-times

Prior to COVID-19 and the cancellation of elective surgeries, the average wait time for a knee or hip replacement in this province was 450 days. 

Over the last two provincial elections, Premier Blaine Higgs has promised to reduce wait-times for hip and knee replacement surgeries.

Barbie said she's begging the premier to do more.

"He can control people's quality of life," she said.

Delays have grown to two to three years for some people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I understand why patients are frustrated," said New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.

Shephard said a pilot project at St-Joseph's Hospital in Saint John will soon cut the growing wait times for knee and hip surgeries.

Two doctors dressed in blue scrubs lean over a patient while performing surgery.
New Brunswick patients are waiting more than 16 months for hip and knee replacement surgeries. (MAD.vertise/Shutterstock)

In recent weeks, St-Joseph's has increased the number of hip and knee surgeries to as many as 20 per week.

She said this will help the Higgs government reach its goal of cutting wait times in half by March. 

Shephard said the province is also running programs to help people waiting for surgery with physiotherapy so they can manage their pain better and, in some cases, eliminate it altogether.

New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says a pilot project at St. Joseph's hospital in Saint John will cut growing wait times for knee and hip surgeries. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The national benchmark in Canada for such surgeries is six months. In the first quarter of 2020-21, only 30 per cent of hip and knee replacement surgeries in New Brunswick were completed within that benchmark.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but as we progress with this demonstration project, then I believe we're going to be able to take what we're learning here and transfer it," Shephard said.


Elizabeth Fraser


Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?

With files from Jonna Brewer