More than 800 people are waiting for a hip replacement in the Interior Health region, but few have waited longer than one man from the South Okanagan.
Province-wide, more than 3,500 people are waiting for such a procedure, with a median wait time of 20 weeks.
Osoyoos native Lee Horn, 74, has been waiting over a year (56 weeks) for the procedure since he was diagnosed.
It’s partly because Penticton Regional Hospital has wait times that are twice as long as other B.C. facilities.
“The medical system is broken in my mind. It’s fractured. It needs to be fixed and not tomorrow, today. There shouldn’t be anyone waiting,” Lee’s wife Gaye Horn said.
”I’m angry. I’m sad. I want him fixed. I want him back. This is my best friend. ‘So frustrating’ doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel,” she said during an interview with Global News on Monday.
Gaye said the pain and suffering have robbed them of a life they once knew.
“There are days when we don’t talk… it is because he is so racked with pain he doesn’t want to talk. He wants me to shut up and leave him alone. From that point of view it destroys the essence of family; of who and what we were,” she said.
The Horn family isn’t alone.
Government data shows that 131 people are waiting for a hip replacement at Penticton Regional Hospital as of Dec. 31, 2016.
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The median wait time is 39 weeks, almost double the provincial average .
At Kelowna General Hospital, 249 people are waiting for the same procedure. The average wait time at that Okanagan facility is 29 weeks.
Dr. Andrew Hamilton, the Interior Health Authority’s medical director for surgery, said he empathizes with Horn’s situation.
“We have increasing demand. We have an elderly population and the demand for hip and knee surgery is going up,” he said.
Hamilton said a pilot project is about to get underway so patients can see where they sit on the wait list.
“Patients tell us they go into a black hole, they get no information about how long it is going to take. And so, through a new provincial policy, we are going to require the hospitals and surgeons to communicate that they’ve received that referral and give them an idea of how long they might wait,” he said.
“We also have plans for an option for the patients to go online and see where they are in the queue,” he said.
“We understand that waiting for surgery, especially when you are in pain, can be stressful. Many patients are waiting too long, and that’s why the Ministry of Health invested an extra $25 million last year as part of the province’s surgical services strategy,” said a statement from the Ministry of Health.
As for Lee, the wait drags on.
“’How much longer?’ It’s always, ‘How much longer?’” he said.