‘Bone-on-bone pain’: B.C. woman pays for private hip surgery in Alberta

Click to play video: 'B.C. woman pays for own hip replacement in Alberta'
B.C. woman pays for own hip replacement in Alberta
WATCH: A Vancouver Island woman, and recipient of the Order of BC, says she was forced to go to Alberta and pay $34,000 for a hip replacement. Aaron McArthur reports. – Oct 16, 2023

A Vancouver Island woman is speaking out about surgical delays, after travelling to Alberta and paying out of pocket to get a hip replacement.

Tracy Porteous, an Order of British Columbia appointee for her work on gender-based violence, had the surgery done last week at a private clinic in Calgary.

She made the decision, which cost about $34,000 in fees, travel and accommodations, after the condition of her hip began to deteriorate rapidly.

“In July I went from having to be on opioids from the bone-on-bone pain to I can’t take a step,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Sooke man worried Victoria OR closures will delay his hip surgery for years'
Sooke man worried Victoria OR closures will delay his hip surgery for years

Porteous first sought care for her knee and hip pain in 2021, and was referred to a surgeon at RebalanceMD in Saanich that December.

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She said she was placed on a semi-urgent list for surgery in the spring, and was escalated to a priority position on the wait list over the summer when doctors determined her femoral head had partially collapsed.

“And then weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything,” she said.

As time dragged on, Porteous began to investigate private options and talked with her bank about the potential of getting a loan to cover the surgery.

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She said with no word from her B.C. surgeon about when her date would come, she bit the bullet and decided to go the private route.

“As soon as I made the decision, even though it was a burden financially, I felt, I can’t tell you, such a massive relief that I had an answer,” she said.

“We need to have more (assurance) for people, because the toll it takes on people’s mental health is massive.”

Click to play video: 'Surgeries postponed due to hospital staff shortage in Victoria'
Surgeries postponed due to hospital staff shortage in Victoria

According to health professionals, the issue is not a lack of surgeons or operating room space, but a lack of staffing — especially nursing support.

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The B.C. government maintains the province has increased orthopedic surgeries provincewide.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province had conducted 13,000 hours of surgery between January and August of this year, while cutting wait lists to position B.C. as a top performer in Canada.

“B.C. has gone from near the bottom of the country on hip replacements to near the top or at the top of the country in terms of wait times, in terms of responding — that’s because we’ve invested substantially in surgery,” he said.

“We’ve added hundreds of surgical nurses, in the hundreds of anesthesiologists … in addition to our plan to increase operating room hours, which has been successful in B.C. This summer, in July and August we shattered records.”

While the province touts its progress on the surgical file, RebalanceMD’s CEO said it isn’t putting a dent in wait lists.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government takes over Prince George Surgical Centre'
B.C. government takes over Prince George Surgical Centre

More than 4,100 people are currently waiting for joint replacement surgeries in the Victoria area alone, he said, up from 3,800 just a few weeks ago.

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“It just continues to spiral out of control,” he said.

“We have been, over the last period of time, disproportionately hit with cancellations, postponements and various other things, and Victoria I think is a really difficult ecosystem currently from a staffing perspective post-pandemic.”

Porteous, meanwhile, said she’s just happy to have the surgery done and to be focusing on her recovery.

But she said she knows many others don’t have the financial resources to make a decision like she did.

“I have been lucky enough to have the credit rating to allow the bank to give me a loan, but what about all the other thousands of people in British Columbia who are waiting?” she said.

“I understand (the health minister) said publicly we’re trying to train more nurses … but that’s going to take years. What are we doing now?”

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