Premier John Horgan announces a $175-million influx at Vancouver General Hospital on Wednesday, March 21, to ensure that fewer people have to wait so long for hip and knee surgery. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

B.C. announces $175 million to cut hip, knee surgery wait times

Premier John Horgan said money will allow for a 34-per-cent increase in surgeries

People waiting for a knee or hip replacement in B.C. will get the surgery sooner than they thought, following a $175-million funding injection announced by Premier John Horgan.

“That will lead to a 34-per-cent increase in procedures. Four thousand people will now have access to [surgeries],” Horgan said at a news conference at Vancouver General Hospital on Wednesday.

About 14,400 hip and knee surgeries were performed in 2016-17, and with this funding, more than 19,000 will be done in 2018-19.

Dr. Bassram Masri, head of the VGH orthopaedics department, said he’s seen waiting times of up to two years for hip and knee surgeries.

“The average waiting time for surgery is 17 weeks [in Vancouver Coastal Health],” Masri said. “We have a benchmark that we would like most of our patients to be waiting no more than 26 weeks.”

But only about two thirds of patients in that health region wait only that long. Across B.C., 70 per cent of hip surgery patients and 62 per cent of knee surgery patients waited less than the target 26 weeks.

The funding, which is part of a four-part surgical strategy, will come in two portions: $75 million in 2018-19 and another $100 million in 2019-20. It was also previously announced in the provincial government’s 2018 budget.

The new model will build on the work done in a Richmond pilot project by adding new components like dedicated operating room time, pre- and post-surgical support, centralized intake, standardized assessment, first available surgeon and ongoing evaluation.

The project, which the Hospital Employees Union said should have never been abandoned, cut wait times by 75 per cent.

Edith MacHattie, the co-chair of the BC Healthcare Coalition, welcomed the news, especially the speed at which the services would be rolled out, but said she’d like to see more done.

“We’d like to see strategies such as a centralized wait list and first available surgeon models because right now people are waiting for months and months on individual wait lists held by individual surgeons.”

The wait lists would be by health authority, she said, to cut down on travel costs.


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