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Wait times for hip and knee replacements cut by 80 days

Some patients had been waiting up to 260 days for a hip or knee replacement surgery, said Joyce Ralph, senior director of Patient Services at Guelph General Hospital
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Guelph General Hospital has eliminated a long-standing backlog for patients waiting for either knee or hip replacement surgeries and hospital management says wait times are now hitting their targets.

Joyce Ralph, senior director of Patient Services at Guelph General Hospital, said for years some patients were waiting up to 260 days for a knee or hip replacement surgery — almost 80 days longer then the hospital’s target wait time.

That increased wait time was having a negative effect on patients, said Ralph.

“Once you get to the point you cannot go on without having surgery, you make that decision, it’s a point where the pain is getting worse and you want to get them in as soon as possible,” she said.

Hip and knee surgeries are generally performed on patients over the age of 50, said Ralph, though she noted there are cases where someone younger may need it, like a serious injury or due to disease.

Patients are often encouraged to hold off getting a hip or knee replacement for as long as possible, said Ralph, while other treatments or strategies are attempted.

The longer a patient has to wait for a surgery, the lower their satisfaction tends to be for the care they receive due to their reduced mobility, weight issues, the taking of pain medications and other factors, said Ralph.

The backlog for those surgeries had been affecting the hospital for three to four years, said Ralph.

The amount of funding received by the hospital from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for those surgeries was not enough to deal with the backlog or the increased wait times.

“The number of cases that were referred to our orthopaedic surgeons outweighed the funding we received for those hip and knee patients," she said.

"Supply didn’t match the demand, so therefore the wait times increased over time,” said Ralph.

In January, the hospital began working with the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to address the backlog by adding additional beds for patients to recover post-op and working with staff at all levels — including surgeons, anaesthesiologists, the operating room team as well as physiotherapists.

"There was a lot of people involved to make this happen,” said Ralph.

Both the hospital and LHIN put funds toward addressing the backlog and wait times and Ralph said as of October the hospital is meeting the 182-day standard wait time for knee or hip replacement surgeries.

Ralph said funding from the LHIN was converted from their growth funding, which was received in order to meet the health care demands of the region’s growing population.

Aside from the additional funding, Ralph credits hospital staff with coming together to address the backlog.

“It took great team effort between the surgeons, anesthesia, the operating room team, in-patient surgery and physiotherapists. There was a lot of people involved to make this happen,”  said Ralph.

“You need the money, but you also need a great team behind it to make it happen,” she added.