Prince Edward Islanders are not having to wait as long for hip and knee replacement surgeries, but the wait times are still more than double national targets.
The wait times were raised as a concern by the Opposition during the spring sitting of the legislature. Referencing numbers from March, the Opposition noted the average wait for a hip replacement was 468 days, and 538 days for knee surgery. New numbers this week now list wait times of 422 days for hips and 454 for knees.
That is still far longer than the national target of 182 days.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Wotherspoon told Island Morning host Laura Chapin those numbers should continue to come down, following the hiring of a sixth surgeon in November 2019.
"The five of us really just couldn't keep up," said Wotherspoon.
"We lobbied and were successful in getting a sixth orthopedic surgeon here. And I think we will see those numbers come down."
Pandemic slows progress
The COVID-19 pandemic, coming just a few months after the sixth surgeon started, shut down joint surgeries for eight weeks.
Surgeons were, however, still seeing patients and adding them to the waiting list. All that means it is taking some time for that sixth surgeon to start having an impact on wait times.
The surgeons have also been making more efficient use of resources on the Island recently, Wotherspoon said, moving more day surgeries to the Prince County Hospital, and freeing up beds at the QEH in Charlottetown.
Supply and demand
While Wotherspoon expects the situation to improve in the short term, he said the province still faces long-term issues.
It comes down to supply and demand, he said. The province increased the supply with the sixth surgeon, but with the Island's demographics demand will continue to increase for the next decade or two.
But he added that is not inevitable, and Islanders can decrease their odds of needing a joint replacement by losing a little weight.
"We put anywhere between three and eight times our body weight through our joints," said Wotherspoon.
"So even a small amount of weight loss can actually help improve the life of any joint."
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