There is some recent good news for our orthopaedic patients in Brandon. Over the past few years we have experienced unduly long surgical wait times, largely related to a prolonged anaesthetist shortage. Our joint replacement patients have had the longest waits. A few months after this problem was finally being rectified with a brief but significant increases in joint surgery numbers, the COVID pandemic forced successive shutdowns of elective surgery. It is recognized that these delays have contributed to worsening pain, function, and quality of life for our patients. Fortunately, however, as a result of a number of recent developments, our joint replacement wait line is beginning to move more quickly again.
Currently we are transitioning to a “catch-up phase” of orthopaedic surgical cases, and this is being driven by a number of factors. Not only has there been reopening of previously closed slates, with a current full complement of anaesthetists, but additional orthopaedic slate time is being added, we have implemented improved operating room efficiencies, and an increase in Day Surgery partial knee replacements is further taking pressure off our need for inpatient beds. This increased throughput is particularly being seen in our joint replacement lists. Furthermore, due to provincial recognition of these local efficiencies our hospital has recently been awarded government funding for an additional 100 joint replacements over our previous caseload, to be applied over the next year.
For our practice this is benefitting both partial knee and total knee replacement patients. While it’s hard at this point to specify the number of months this will reduce each wait time, and it’s unclear for how long these improvements can be maintained, it will certainly help get our patients to their needed surgery more promptly than before. Some of this progress will obviously depend on the evolution of the pandemic and its strain on hospital resources. Our ultimate goal is to bring the wait time from surgeon consultation to joint replacement surgery in line with the Canadian target benchmark of six months. This reduction in wait times will depend on various factors over time, but the recent advances are encouraging and can hopefully be sustained to better serve our patients.