Hamilton woman waits in pain for hip replacement, saying health-care system failing patients | CBC News (2024)

Each day Tina Moffatt waits in agonizing pain for her hip replacement surgery is "soul crushing."

The 55-year-old Hamilton woman has waited over five months since her family doctor determined her hip wasplagued by "severe" osteoarthritis and, accordingto her medical records,would likely require surgery.

That appointment was in December and she was officially referred to a surgeon in February, butMoffatt said she's still in limbo waiting for her first consultation appointment to be booked and surgery date set.

As she waits, the pain radiating from her left hip is so debilitating she's begun taking prescribed opioids to cope, although they leave her feeling foggy and numb, Moffatt said. She's also been told other pain management options, like steroid injections, shouldn't be administered until after she knows when her surgery will be.

She can't work, attend family barbecues, or, for the most part, leave the house because of her deteriorating physical and mental health.

"It's just terrible," said Moffatt. "I'm waking up in the middle of night because I'm crying from the pain."

Moffatt said she's willing to do whatever it takes to speed up the process, requesting to be referred to a surgeon in the region — or beyond — with the shortest wait time and calling her health care providers and local MPP for help. But the wait continues.

"When you're devoting most of your mental and emotional energy to just not being a nightmare to be around because you're in so much pain, you've got nothing left," Moffatt said.

"I'm literally rotting away."

Hamilton woman waits in pain for hip replacement, saying health-care system failing patients | CBC News (1)

A 'crisis' across the country

Moffatt's situation demonstrates how, despite Ontario's efforts to reduce surgery backlogs and speed up joint replacements, some patients in extreme pain continue to wait for months.

The Arthritis Society of Canada has been advocating for more action from provincial governments to address the surgical backlog, which president and CEO Trish Barbato said is still "in crisis" following the pandemic.

The vast majority of hip and knee replacement patients suffer from arthritis, and surgery isoftenthe only way to relieve pain long-term, says Barbato. But the longer they wait, the more they struggle to work and even do simple daily tasks.

"We're definitely concerned about all of the measures and costs that people have to incur while they're waiting," she said.

"Their mental health is suffering severely. There are so many impacts."

Watch:Patients in all provinces are waiting longer than before the pandemic

Hamilton woman waits in pain for hip replacement, saying health-care system failing patients | CBC News (2)

Knee, hip replacement surgery wait times longer since the pandemic

2 months ago

Duration 2:02

New data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows patients in all provinces are waiting longer than before the pandemic for some priority orthopedic and cancer surgeries, but it's not all bad news — overall more surgeries are being performed than ever.

In recent years, the provincial government has increased funding for a range of diagnostic scans and surgeries at both public hospitals and private, for-profit clinics to address mounting wait times, said spokesperson Hannah Jensen on behalf of health minister Sylvia Jones.

"We are not okay with the status quo," Jensen said.

In Ontario, it takes patients, on average, about six and a half months to get hip replacement surgery — just over the national benchmark of six months, according to publicly available data.

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These wait time estimates, posted online, do not include how long it takes for a patient to get a referral for surgery or to undergo tests like X-rays, blood work and MRIs ordered by the surgeon before booking the surgery.

Ontario has the best record among the provinces, but wait times remain significantly longer than what patients in other countries with universal health-care systems endure.

In Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Hungary, the majority of patients are treated within three months, according to a 2021 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Hamilton patients wait longer than Ontario average

Hip replacements in all the hospitals in the Hamilton-Niagara area take longer than even the provincial average. The wait time at St. Joseph's Charlton Campus is the shortest in the region at seven months, on average, while Niagara Health's Welland hospital is the longest at 10 months, according to publicly available data.

St. Joe's has received tens of millions of dollars from the province to increase the number of surgical rooms it has available for patients across the region, said Dr. Bobby Shayegan, chief of surgery. The expansion resulted in 330 more joint replacements in 2023 compared to 2022.

"We do prioritize hip and knee replacements because they can be very debilitating," said Shayegan. "But to be honest, in orthopedic surgery long wait times, even before COVID, were always an issue, particularly with hips."

  • Private clinics charge thousands in extra fees for OHIP-covered surgery: Ontario Health Coalition
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He said it's frustrating patients like Moffatt are still waiting months on end for surgery.

"[The province] is spending more but unfortunately, as reflected by the backlogs, it's not enough," Shayegan said.

To cut down the wait times further, Shayegan said the hospital could offer surgeries on weekends, but currently doesn't have the necessary provincial funding. Another solution could be a centralized referral system where a patient would automatically be directed to the surgeon with the shortest wait time.

Hamilton woman waits in pain for hip replacement, saying health-care system failing patients | CBC News (3)

Moffatt fears the longer she waits, the more likely she is to permanently damage her body.

She had her other hip replaced in 2008 after waiting months and ended up with serious, life-long nerve damage, Moffatt said.

She and her husband have considered taking out a loan to pay $30,000 for the surgery at a private clinic in another province that would be performed within weeks, she said. But she can't bring herself to give up on the public system.

"We paid our taxes our entire life and I refuse to jump the queue because it's not goddamn fair and it goes against my values," Moffatt said.

In the meantime, she'll continue advocating for herself and other patients waiting for joint replacements who, she said, are "existing in the shadows" but deserve to have "meaningful connections to the world."

Hamilton woman waits in pain for hip replacement, saying health-care system failing patients | CBC News (2024)


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