Christmas has come early for some 96 New Brunswickers who have been waiting up to a year for hip and knee replacements, thanks to a weekend surgery pilot launched Thursday by the Horizon Health Network.
Surgical teams in Fredericton, Miramichi, Moncton and Saint John have volunteered to work overtime on Saturdays between November and February to complete a "blitz" of primarily orthopedic surgeries, starting with patients who have been waiting the longest, said interim president and CEO Margaret Melanson.
"This initiative is an innovative and efficient way to continue to address our systemic challenges and barriers to providing access to surgery," she said.
The additional surgeries are not expected to take away from any other strained health-care services, Melanson told reporters during a briefing held via Zoom.
Asked how Horizon will prevent burnout among the volunteer surgeons, surgical nurses and anesthesiologists, she said the health network continues to work "very diligently" on recruitment and hopes to have a rotation of staff as others agree to join in the weeks and months ahead.
Model inspired by Formula 1 racing
The initiative, known as high-intensity interval theatre (HIIT), is recognized as an efficient way to complete "a month's worth" of surgeries in a single day, while not putting added pressure on a hospital's regular Monday through Friday surgical schedule, according to Horizon.
The model was created by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, a health-care organization in the U.K., and was inspired by Formula 1 racing pit stop techniques — "achieving maximum efficiency and safety by boosting surgeons' operating time and eliminating all possible patient delays on the day."
More than 2,000 people are waiting for a hip or knee replacement within Horizon.
The national benchmark for wait times for both hip and knee replacements is 182 days.
Across Horizon, five of out 10 hip replacements are completed in an average of 313 days, and nine of out 10 are completed within 524 days.
For knee replacements, five of out 10 are completed in 391 days, and nine of out 10 are completed within 590 days.
Starts this weekend in Moncton
The goal of the HIIT initiative is to complete three to four orthopedic surgical procedures every Saturday in each of the four locations, with the roll out starting this weekend at the Moncton Hospital.
Once the program is fully implemented, between 12 and 16 hip and knee replacements will be completed each Saturday, and between 72 and 96 surgeries will be completed over the next several months.
Horizon projects the initiative will cost roughly $500,000, when factoring in the cost of the joint replacement as well as required staffing resources, said Amy McCavour, executive regional director and co-lead of surgical services.
Funding has been secured through the provincial government, she said.
If the pilot proves successful, it could be extended, Melanson said.