N.S. admits knee, hip surgery wait times are still longest in the country

Michael Tutton and Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
February 23, 2017
Written by Michael Tutton and Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX – Health Minister Leo Glavine acknowledges Nova Scotia still has the country's worst wait times for knee and hip surgeries, but says such procedures are quickly being stepped up.

Nova Scotia's auditor general said in a report released Wednesday that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has fallen short on two-year-old recommendations on wait-time reporting for knee and hip surgeries.

About 90 per cent of Nova Scotia patients receive hip replacements within 750 days, and knee replacements within 800 days, the auditor's report notes. Nationally, the benchmark is within 182 days.

Glavine said more hip and knee surgeries are being performed each year. The Health Department said the authority is on track to perform 879 long-standing hip and knee surgeries this fiscal year, 265 more than last fiscal year.

"We're getting the long-waiters and acute into surgery much quicker than what we've been doing in the past," Glavine said.

The minister acknowledged, however, that it will be "some time" before the province will be able to move up from its last-place ranking.

In auditor Michael Pickup's report Wednesday – a follow-up tracking the government's response to recommendations in reports from 2013 and 2014 – he said the authority has only completed two of his seven 2014 recommendations on operating room usage and surgical wait-time reporting.

Glavine said moving to one provincial health authority about two years ago complicated the process of implementing the recommendations.

"As they start year three, this will be a requirement from myself as minister and our government that (the wait-time reporting recommendations) are put in place," said Glavine after a cabinet meeting Wednesday.

Glavine said he will meet authority officials soon to discuss implementing the outstanding recommendations.

Pickup said the health authority has yet to give citizens a clear target of how long they must await for the operations, or a monitoring system to indicate how hospitals are performing.

Pickup's report said auditors had expected to see the health authority produce a timeline for following up on the recommendations.

"Our 2014 audit of surgical waitlist and operating room utilization found that Nova Scotia was not meeting national benchmarks ... which shows the importance of managing waitlists and operating room usage," says the report.

In addition to being in last place in the Canadian Institute of Health Information rankings for knee and hip surgeries, the province is in seventh place for cataract surgery.

The auditor general also says in the report that he's concerned with slow progress by the Department of Transportation in carrying out 35 recommendations made in 2013 to improve measures that prevent inventory loss or theft.

"The recommendations are not complex and are within the department's control. The department's poor performance in dealing with these issues is disappointing," says the report.

Pickup also noted the Tri-County Regional School Board, based in Yarmouth, has yet to complete a study to understand the below average performance of its 5,900 students.

The report notes the board continues to have below average student achievement.

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