March 21, 2018 3:57 pm
Updated: March 22, 2018 12:34 am

B.C. government promises to cut hip and knee replacement wait times

WATCH: The NDP government announcing today they are spending millions to cut wait time for hip and knee replacements in half. Geoff Hastings with more on how they plan to do it.

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Chris Hebb climbs mountains, plays golf and rides the range on horseback.

All of that on two replaced hips.

WATCH HERE: Surgical wait times have never been higher

And like most British Columbians who have knee and hip replacements, he waited a few months before one of the surgeries was done.

“I’m immensely thankful to the taxpayers of British Columbia who made my hip surgeries attainable,” said Hebb.

“My new hips have made a dramatic difference in my health and every day life.”

It’s the wait that Hebb and many others have experienced that the B.C. government is hoping to reduce.

On Wednesday, the province pledged $75 million targeted at reducing wait times for new and hip replacements. The funding will allow the province to do 34 per cent more surgeries — that will mean about 4,000 additional operations.

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“When we think of health care we want to know that everyone can get access to the health care they need, where they need it and when they need it,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan. “The most bedeviling part of that challenge is wait times.”

READ MORE: B.C. to increase number of dental surgeries for faster access

The provincial government sets 26 weeks as a benchmark for patients to go from referral to surgery.

In 2016 and 2017, 30 per cent of people waiting for hip surgery and 38 per cent of people waiting for knee surgery waited longer than the benchmark.

“You only know how terrible it is to wait in pain, when you have pain,”said Dr. Bassam Masri, Vancouver Coastal Health’s surgeon-in-chief for Vancouver Acute and the head of the orthopedics department.

“Early in my career, waiting times of up to two years were not uncommon. But over the years it has begun to improve. But we can do more.”

The professional organization representing B.C. doctors also welcomed the news, but said how the province actually spends the money will be crucial.

Doctors of BC president Dr. Trina Larsen Soles told Global News the money won’t help if there aren’t upgrades to operating rooms.

“You have to open more operating rooms, you have to run the longer hours, you have to improve efficiency. And if they can do that, they’ll have done a very good thing.”

Soles said the province also needs to hire more nurses and increase the number of available beds.

Funding for the replacement surgeries will go up to $100 million for 2019/2020. The money is targeted at co-ordinating services for patients and dedicating operating space for the surgeries.

The province is expecting to do  more than 19,250 replacement surgeries annually by 2018-19.

“Over, over and over again people living in pain look to the public health care system and say can we do more. The response we are providing today if yes we can,” said Horgan.

-With files from Jon Hall

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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