Wait time for some N.B. surgeries on the rise, but numbers could drop in next few months

Click to play video: 'Surgery wait times in New Brunswick have increased, health council says'
Surgery wait times in New Brunswick have increased, health council says
WATCH: Wait times to get a hip or knee surgery have increased, according to the New Brunswick Health Council. As Zack Power reports, a new report suggests there is a 25 per cent increase in wait times. – Jul 5, 2023

New numbers from the New Brunswick Health Council point to increased wait times for knee and hip surgeries in the province.

According to a report released on Wednesday, only 34 per cent of hip replacement surgeries were completed in the national benchmark of 182 days. Additionally, 26 per cent of knee replacement surgeries were completed within that period.

This comes in addition to recent data by the province points to even longer wait times across those two sectors.

Provincial documents show it took 491 days for nine out of 10 hip surgeries to be completed from the date the patient and physician agreed to the surgery. The Moncton Hospital tops that list of long wait times, with nine of 10 hip surgeries completed within 661 days. One doctor at the hospital, Dr. Abdullah, had 90 per cent of his surgeries completed within 880 days, the highest in the province.

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“Prior to the pandemic, health systems across the country had to improve how they have a co-ordinated approach to surgeries,” said Stephane Robichaud, the New Brunswick Health Council CEO.

“Whether it’s how we approach the scheduling, or the availability of surgical units and resources, what we’ve seen (in the recent year) is an increased effort in looking at that co-ordination.”

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That co-ordination comes on the heels of longer wait times than previous reporting periods. Wait times for knee replacement surgeries in the province increased by 91 days from the second quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023.

Wait times also increased for hip replacement surgeries by 85 days.

Times are changing

The health council said wait times for hip and knee replacement surgeries could drop in the next few months.

“If we don’t have unexpected departures from a nursing or surgeon perspective, that long wait-list could be eliminated in the next nine months,” Robichaud said.

“Not everywhere in New Brunswick is there a wait-list of people waiting for more than a year. We could start seeing some improvement in dealing with that in a 180-day timeframe as well.”

Robichaud noted that surgeons have been working extra hours to be able to clear the backlog of patients.

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As of November 2022, more than 2,000 Horizon patients are on the waiting list for knee and hip replacements, 700 of whom have been on the waiting list for over a year.

A spokesperson for the province said there are now only 400 residents who have been waiting for over a year for a hip or knee replacement.

“At this rate, by the end of June 2024, no patient will wait longer than 12 months for hip or knee replacement surgery in the province,” said Sean Hatchard from the Department of Health.

“The percentage of hip and knee surgeries completed within the national benchmark has decreased. This is to be expected while the department works to complete the longest-waiting surgeries on the wait lists. Once the longest-waiting hip and knee surgeries have been eliminated, the department will be better positioned to meet the national benchmarks.”

Some regional health authorities have already taken the issues into their own hands by providing “blitzes.”

Horizon Health Network used operating rooms in Fredericton, Moncton, Miramichi and Saint John on Saturdays to perform surgeries to reduce the growing wait list for orthopedic surgeries. The goal is to perform between 12 and 16 surgeries, which is the number normally done over the course of one month, each Saturday, in addition to the surgeries normally performed during the week.

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— With files from Suzanne Lapointe

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