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Albertans face longer wait times for knee and hip replacements: report.

As such, he said the change is due to a combination of factors, including a
Albertans needing a hip or knee replacement tended to wait at least one month longer to receive their surgeries last year, according to new national statistics that also showed declining performances for cataract and bypass procedures.
The findings come from an annual Canadian Institute of Health Information
study, released late Wednesday, that compares wait times across the country for several common medical procedures.
While Alberta ranked fairly well in a handful of categories in 2017, the numbers also show the province’s health system has slipped in several

Alberta is the country’s highest per capita spender on health care.
The province’s health budget is set to climb past $22 billion in the current 2018-19 fiscal year.
“There are areas we do well, but it’s clear we have a lot of work to do in others,” said Dr. Francois Belanger, vice-president of quality and chief medical officer for Alberta Health Services.
“The approach we take, from a high level perspective, is to really be strategic about this and not reactive.”

Among the biggest changes in Alberta, the institute found half of the patients waiting for a hip replacement last year were accommodated within 121 days (four months) — up substantially from 91 days in 2016.
To treat 90 per cent per cent of the patients on the list, the rate jumped to 251 days from 218 days over the same period.
Delays for knee replacements increased at a similar pace.
In 2016, it took 113 days to provide knee surgery to half the patients. The following year, that rate rose to 143 days.

AHS has said the most pressing cases are always given priority and handled in a timely manner.
Asked to explain the worsening wait times, Belanger said the health authority has maintained its surgery volume and funding.
Dr. Francois Belanger, vice-president of quality and chief medical officer for Alberta Health Services.
growing and aging population, issues with surgical capacity and how wait lists are managed.

According to the health information institute, the current benchmark to deliver hip and knee replacements is 182 days.
Alberta met that benchmark last year for 73 per cent of its hip patients and 67 per cent of its knee patients. Those figures are both down about 10 points from the percentages set the year before.

When the statistics are broken down by region, the most dramatic change in performance occurred in the Edmonton zone.
Year over year, the capital region’s rate of meeting the 182-day standard declined to 72 per cent from 87 per cent for hip replacements.
For knee surgeries, the rate plummeted even further to 62 per cent from 84 per cent.
Belanger said he wasn’t aware of any unusual problems in Edmonton that would explain the numbers.
He said AHS is looking at a number of ways to address surgery wait times generally, including making more efficient use of operating rooms, reducing unnecessary tests that can hold up the process, and developing criteria to identify patients who might be best served without surgery.
The report found Alberta still ranks in the middle of the pack compared with other provinces, in part because delays increased around the country in 2017.
The institute’s report also showed lengthening waits in 2017 for bypass surgeries, which are more urgent procedures.
Half of Alberta’s bypass patients received the service within 10 days last year, up from six days the year before. In effect, the province went from having one of the best rates in the country to one of the worst.
As well, delays for cataract surgery continued to plague Alberta in 2017, the institute found.
The provincial health system accommodated half its cataract patients within 99 days, which was a week longer than the rate from the previous year. The national average was 65 days.
Delays for CT scans and MRIs also continued to worsen in 2017, according to the institute’s numbers.
As for common cancer surgeries — including those for bladder, prostate and breast cancer — wait times held steady. Yet Alberta continued to rank near the bottom when compared with other provinces.
The one bright spot was waits for lung cancer, which continued to improve last year. Back in 2013, Alberta lung patients were waiting twice as long as other Canadians for operations, but AHS has since reduced the delays to within 10 days of the national average.

Other positive trends for Alberta included improved access to radiation therapy and hip fracture surgery. In the latter case, the province posted the second best times in the country.
While the institute’s report focused on the waits between when a patient is ready for surgery and when they actually go under the knife, Belanger said AHS is also looking at obstacles affecting the whole “continuum of care.”
This includes the availability of post-surgical beds, along with waits for tests and referrals to specialists, he said.

Adapted from Edmonton SUN 11/04/18