New Brunswick

Moncton wait times for knee and hip replacements longest in New Brunswick

Vivian LeBlanc says New Brunswickers like her who have spent their lives working hard deserve better from the health-care system than a two-year wait for a knee replacement.

Vivian LeBlanc disappointed in response by health minister to her complaint about long surgery wait times

Vivian LeBlanc, of Moncton, wants to know what Health Minister Victor Boudreau is doing to shorten the wait list for knee and hip replacement surgeries. The wait times in Moncton are the longest in the province. (Submitted by Vivian LeBlanc)

Wait times for hip and knee replacement surgery at both of Moncton's hospitals are the longest in the province — in some cases triple the wait times at other hospitals.

"It makes me angry actually," said Moncton resident Vivian LeBlanc who is waiting for a knee replacement.

When LeBlanc retired from her career as a nurse, she was looking forward to spending time playing with her grandchildren, travelling with her husband and golfing with friends.

Instead, the 61-year-old spends her days in chronic pain waiting for a surgery that could be up to two years away.

"I would really like to have a good quality of life. None of us know when the shoe is going to drop, but I'm young and I want to get going again and I feel it very unfair," LeBlanc told Information Morning Moncton.

Dr. Michael Forsythe, an orthhopedic surgeon, said he sees patients, such as LeBlanc every day, and dreads having to tell them their wait for relief will be at least 18 months.

"The only long-term solution that I could offer her as a surgeon was knee replacement surgery," Forsythe said.

"Unfortunately I had to explain to her that … the current wait time in my practice for knee replacement surgery is 18 months … and the current wait time for hip replacement surgery is around one year."

National benchmark is 182 days

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Forsythe, seen here with patient Vivian LeBlanc, said he has contacted the Department of Health several times asking officials to sit down and come up with a plan to shorten the long wait times in the Moncton area. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)
According to a Department of Health website that tracks wait times for surgery, nine out of 10 patients at the Moncton Hospital waited 588 days or 1.6 years, for a hip replacement and 726 days, or nearly two years, for a knee replacement between April and June of 2016.

Meanwhile, patients at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre faced similar waits at 557 days for a hip replacement and 681 days for a knee replacement.

I've been a citizen of New Brunswick all my life and I deserve better I think.- Vivian   LeBlanc, Moncton patient

The national benchmark for both surgeries, according to the Department of Health, is 182 days.

The only hospitals in the province that offer hip and knee replacements within the 182 day benchmark are the Edmundston Regional Hospital and the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

Forsythe said it is a struggle to treat patients who are waiting so long for surgery, particularly when their condition worsens while they are waiting.

"We have trouble to prioritize these patients because we see them, we put them on a list and then we don't see them for a year-and-a-half to two years unless they contact our office and some patients will do that and some won't," he said.

"I do my best, but certainly I can't have every patient calling our office after they're on the list to reprioritize them because we just don't have the resources to deal with the list we have."

Health minister 'passing the buck'

Health Minister Victor Boudreau said factors contributing to the increase in wait times in Moncton include an aging population, in-province migration toward southern regions, and human resource training. (CBC)
LeBlanc sent a letter to Health Minister Victor Boudreau, expressing her frustration at the long wait times.

"People should not have to wait more than six months for this type of surgery. Open up two more ORs at the Moncton Hospital and Georges Dumont Hospital until the wait list is reduced to six months," LeBlanc wrote.

"The cost is great on the front end but the price to your citizens needing this surgery is priceless." LeBlanc wrote.

LeBlanc did receive a form letter in response, recommending she go back to her surgeon, who determines where she is on the priority list or consider going to another New Brunswick hospital with a shorter wait time.

"It's just not an option for me. I want my doctors, who I am very familiar with around for me, but also my family in case something … is amiss with surgery," she said.

"It's quite wrong to put that on a patient and to put it on a surgeon."

​Forsythe wasn't happy with the response from the Department of Health either.

"The fact that the government response has been to redirect the patients back to their surgeon is a response that really is just passing the buck," he said.

CBC News contacted Health Minister Victor Boudreau for a response and he will be speaking later in the week.

Forsythe warns the problem in New Brunswick over the past 18 months has gotten worse, not better, with the number of people needed joint replacement rising "exponentially."

Operating rooms should be open longer

A Department of Health website says nine out of 10 patients at the Moncton Hospital waited 588 days for a hip replacement and 726 days for a knee replacement between April and June of 2016. (CBC)
Forsythe said he has contacted the Department of Health asking for a meeting to discuss the challenges in the Moncton area, but said he has yet to receive a response.

"It's a resource issue. The Moncton area is a growing population … it's the largest metropolitan centre and the resources haven't followed where the population is."

Forsythe said there are 12 orthopedic surgeons in the Moncton area, which is sufficient, but the hospitals need increased access to operating rooms and access to hospital beds for patients who are recovering.

Part of the solution would be to add more operating rooms and keep them open longer.

LeBlanc adds the decision may be an economic one for the provincial government, but for her, it is about much more than the bottom line.

"I've been a citizen of New Brunswick all my life and I deserve better, I think. I really, truly do. I've worked hard all my life and to be able to have the quality of life that I want I need the surgery — simple as that," she said.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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