A B.C. surgeon is calling on the province to see the “realistic picture” of orthopedic surgery in the province, noting lengthy wait lists and continued delays, despite the province’s claims of catching up on postponed procedures.
On March 16, Dr. Cassandra Lane Dielwart wrote a letter to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, requesting an urgent call or meeting to discuss the state of orthopedic surgery in the province.
Lane Dielwart, the incoming president of the British Columbia Orthopaedic Association, said she has serious concerns about the province’s claim that it is caught up with surgeries postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This in no way reflects the experience for most orthopaedic patients or surgeons in the province. In fact, we continue to struggle with access to operating rooms, have not caught up, and continue to see wait lists grow,” the doctor wrote in the letter.
Lane Dielwart cited issues in a number of regions in the province, noting Kamloops has lost 1,803 hours of operating time in orthopedics since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.
“On average, an orthopaedic case takes around two hours. That is 900 patients who have lost their chance in the operating room,” Lane Dielwart wrote.
But when asked about the letter during a March 24 event at Royal Inland Hospital, Dix said there has been “more investment in orthopedic surgery in the last few years than B.C. has ever seen.”
Dix said that in one year, the province went from completing 14,200 hip and knee replacements to completing 18,900.
The Canadian Joint Replacement Registry, which records the number of hip and knee replacements done each year in Canada, notes that from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020 — prior to most of the pandemic’s effects in B.C. — the province performed 21,414 hip and knee replacements.
But Lane Dielwart said orthopedics has been affected disproportionately to other surgeries because it is often labeled as elective, implying the surgeries are not urgent.
“The patient stories that have consistently filtered in across this pandemic, as our wait lists continue to grow, are filled with tales of uncontrollable pain, loss of mobility, loss of independence, ultimately leading to depression, short and long-term disability, job loss and an increasing prevalence of narcotic dependence,” Lane Dielwart wrote in the letter.
Dix said he is sympathetic to the view that wait times should be reduced he repeated his commitment to cut them down.
“We’re committed to calling people and getting those surgeries done,” Dix said, also pointing to challenging conditions in the Interior Health region as cause for the continued delays.
“The impact has been profound, but nonetheless, we’re proceeding with a surgical renewal plan that is really unprecedented in B.C.’s history,” he said.