A Saskatchewan NDP health critic says the province not only has the longest wait times in Canada for hip and knee surgeries, it ranks well below other jurisdictions.
Matt Love, who is the rural health critic for the Opposition party, pointed to recent data by the Canadian Institute for Health Information that showed median wait times for knee replacements was 467 days in Saskatchewan last year.
Manitoba came in second-last for knee replacements at 336 days, while the wait times in most of the remaining provinces ranged from 210 days to 284 days. Ontario had the shortest waits at 117 days.
“We’re not even in just last place, we’re in a category all our own, way at the bottom,” Love said Thursday.
“And these aren’t just numbers, these are Saskatchewan people, people who are waiting in pain for procedures that should have been delivered months ago.”
Love also pointed out in the recent data that median wait times for hip replacements were 309 days in Saskatchewan last year.
Alberta and New Brunswick tied for second-last on hip replacements at 232 days. Ontario had the shortest waits at 108 days.
While Saskatchewan fared better on other surgeries, Love said wait times overall haven’t budged or have increased over the past five years.
The COVID-19 pandemic also made wait times worse, as procedures were halted during the early days of the pandemic. Many employees also left the profession or burned out, Love said.
The Saskatchewan Party government has said it has been hiring more health-care employees to address wait times. Since December, 485 graduate nurses and five registered nurses from the Philippines have been hired.
The government also plans to increase the number of surgeries completed this year, including having some done in private clinics.
In March, the province signed a $6-million agreement to send patients to Calgary for hip and knee surgeries as a way for people to get help sooner. Patents must pay for their travel.
NDP Leader Carla Beck said she isn’t convinced these plans will work.
“There is the ability within the public system, if there were the will, to expand the capacity of operating room hours to increase availability to existing surgeons in the province, right now,” Beck said Thursday. “What we lack is political will.”
Beck said the government should also hire more staff and work with employees to ensure they don’t leave.
She said employees are “begging to be at the table.”
“We need to take them on it,” Beck said. “If this government is going to continue to show that they’re not interested in finding solutions, we’re saying we are interested in those solutions.”
In an emailed statement Thursday, the government said it’s aiming to have a wait list of fewer than 25,000 patients by March.
It also said it has expanded existing operating room space and that “surgical slates” have been added.
“A contract is being finalized for private-sector partners to begin building an orthopedic surgery centre in Regina in 2023-24, providing an additional 3,000 procedures annually,” the government said.