NS man waiting over two years for hip surgery optimistic about wait time reduction

A Nova Scotia man who has been waiting two years for a hip replacement is welcoming the province’s latest investment aimed at reducing orthopedic surgery wait times.

Greg Slaunwhite, who used to be an active athlete, was placed on the wait list for hip surgery in May 2014 after his hip pain forced him to retire from his job early.

READ MORE: Long wait for hip replacement surgery in NS

He calls his doctor regularly, and was told most recently in February that his wait could last another seven to 12 months.

“Your life goes on hold for two years basically,” Slaunwhite said.

“Not only the pain you put up with, it’s everything else that comes with it. You start getting depressed, you put on weight…it’s so discouraging.”

Greg Slaunwhite of Lower Sackville, N.S. has been waiting two years for a much-needed hip replacement surgery.

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Slaunwhite’s story isn’t unique.

The average wait time for joint replacement in Nova Scotia is 18 to 24 months, but the national standard is six months.

Nova Scotia has always ranked among the worst in the country when it comes to orthopedic surgery wait times.

To improve the situation, the province pledged $1.9 million in the spring budget to fund 160 more orthopedic surgeries this year.

READ MORE: Highlights from Nova Scotia Budget 2016

In total, the province has invested $8.1 million this year in improving orthopedic wait times.

The money will be used for assessments, surgery materials as well as physician costs for hip and knee replacements, foot and ankle procedures and pediatric spinal surgeries at the IWK Health Centre.

The province says the redevelopment of the QEII Health Sciences Centre will also change where and how surgeries are performed and improve efficiency.

“Finally prioritizing those who have been waiting the longest to get them in for surgery has become the now the goal of the past couple of years,” said Health Minister Leo Glavine at a media event at the Dartmouth General Hospital Wednesday.

“I think if we get those people who have been waiting the longest —; those are the ones who will get the quality of life restored as their mobility improves.”

Dr. Eric Howatt, the co-chair of the Provincial Orthopedic Working Group, says there have been improvements since the working group was created a few years ago.

“For the first time, we didn’t actually increase the wait list for joint replacement [last year] and we’ve been working three years on that,” Howatt said.

“So this [funding] will help us actually do an additional couple hundred [surgeries] to get the long waiters off the list. I would love it if it was a lot more [money] because there are about 3,500 people waiting.”

With the province’s aging population and the success and popularity of joint replacement surgeries, Howatt says the demand for these types of procedures will only grow in the years to come.

That means it could take a while for Nova Scotia to reach that six-month benchmark.

“I think if we can continue on the path that we’re on, it will take us several years but I’m much more hopeful than I was when we started this process four years ago with the working group. It was looking very hopeless,” Howatt said.

Meanwhile, Slaunwhite calls the additional funding a “good start” and hopes his days of waiting will soon be over.

“Especially when you’re going on your backside of your sixties and you want to enjoy what you have left, right?,” he said.

“I am active. I was and I’m not anymore. It’s all over.”

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