‘Cloud over top of your head’: Nearly 30,000 people waiting for surgeries in Saskatchewan

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WATCH: As COVID-19 remains a priority for Saskatchewan’s healthcare system, tens of thousands of people are left waiting for surgery in the province – May 4, 2021

Just like nearly 30,000 other people in Saskatchewan, Jill Hanson is waitlisted for surgery.

Last August, the fitness instructor and owner of Fidelity Fitness and Training found out she needed a knee osteotomy and ACL reconstruction.

“My job requires me to be extremely active on a daily basis,” she said.

“Having an injury, especially one that affects your livelihood, is a huge cloud over top of your head.”

Jill Hanson is a fitness instructor and owner of Fidelity Fitness and Training. Zoom

Hanson, who used to be able to teach two spin classes every day, said she’s now lucky if she can teach two classes a week due to her knee.

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“There’s some days when I’m literally unable to put any pressure on my knee and so I’m having to take a sick day,” Hanson told Global News, adding she’s had reduce the amount of virtual classes she can offer as a result.

Read more: Think-tank finds more than 240 people died waiting for surgery in Saskatchewan

In January, doctors told Hanson she would likely get her surgery this spring. But the other day, she was told her surgery won’t happen until October at the earliest.

“It was defeating that day when I heard that,” she said.

“I get it that my level of urgency isn’t necessarily as significant as someone else’s, but at the same time my livelihood isn’t being taken into consideration.”

In a statement to Global News, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health says COVID-19 demands are significantly reducing access to elective and inpatient procedures in Regina, Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert. However, urgent cases including cancer surgeries are still happening.

According to the ministry’s most recent numbers, 29,650 people were waiting for surgeries as of Dec. 31, 2020. More than 11,000 of those people have been on the waitlist for at least six months.

Saskatchewan’s official opposition is calling on the province to update those waitlist numbers to better plan a way out of the backlog.

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“Backlogs in surgeries are creating real risks and will result in people being very sick or even losing their lives early,” Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said.

“The balance on this is difficult but we need to acknowledge it’s a serious problem.”

According to the ministry, 18,600 fewer surgeries were performed in Saskatchewan between March 2020 and January 2021 compared to the same timeframe the year before.

Read more: Regina man’s brain tumour surgery delayed as ICU beds fill up

From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, five out of 10 patients received their surgery within 23 days.

With the current surge in patients, particularly in Regina and area, there have been cancellations and delays of surgical procedures — particularly those requiring an inpatient bed for recovery, said the ministry.

Premier Scott Moe said there is a balance when it comes to COVID care and inpatient procedures, but there will need to be a “renewed focus” coming out of the pandemic.

“It is going to be all hands on deck when we leave the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting our health-care capacity from treating large numbers of folks who have COVID to re-concentrating our efforts on surgical initiatives,” Moe said.

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“It is going to have to be a very large effort with a very large focus in the next month and probably the next year or two.”

While the premier said the government is planning to tackle the growing surgical waitlist, Hanson said it’s hard for her to know what to expect when she doesn’t have a date for her surgery.

“It makes it really hard to plan coverage and plan programming,” she said

Hanson said her surgery comes with at least a six-week recovery. Four of those weeks will leave her essentially immobile.

“That’s going to be a long road in itself, which is also going to affect my business,” she said.

In the interim, Hanson’s doctor told her to maintain the strength in her knee and the muscles around it, but there is always a risk that it could get worse.

“I’m already noticing other impacts it’s having on the rest of my body – some hip issues and (my knee) is very unstable,” she said.

“I don’t want (my knee) to completely blow, but if it does that means that I will get in and get it fixed and can start the recovery process.”

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