Manitoban chooses Mexico option on hip replacement map
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War and the potential for further unrest in eastern Europe has redirected at least one Manitoban seeking an end to their time on the province’s surgery wait lists.
Former radio DJ — and current Great Tastes of Manitoba host — Dez Daniels will be on an operating table today, getting her right hip replaced in a Mexican hospital, instead of a facility in Lithuania.
Daniels, who like some Manitobans tired of waiting in pain due to long surgical wait times made even worse by COVID-19 pandemic delays, had originally opted for getting out-of-pocket surgery in the Baltic country, but the initial build up of Russian forces — which has since culminated in the invasion of Ukraine — changed her mind.
“I was booked for surgery in Lithuania in April,” the 48-year-old said Thursday by phone from Mexico. “Then, there was all this potential unrest near there and I decided as much as I wanted to go to Lithuania, I didn’t feel safe. I pivoted and have come to Mexico.
“When you can’t walk, you don’t want to be in a position where you have to run.”
Lithuania, part of the former Soviet Union that declared its Independence in 1990, shares a border with Belarus, which has supported the Russian invasion.
If it hadn’t been for a bout of COVID-19, Daniels would already be weeks into recovery.
“When you can’t walk, you don’t want to be in a position where you have to run.” – Dez Daniels
“I was originally booked for surgery in Lithuania on Jan. 27, but then I contracted COVID over Christmas,” she said. “The policy is if you had a positive test, you can’t have surgery for three months even if you have a negative test. So I pushed it back to April.”
However, Daniels said, whether Lithuania, Mexico — or even Winnipeg — she needed the surgery now and wasn’t willing to wait 18 months, a length that didn’t appear to be changing. Her hip had deteriorated due to osteoarthritis.
“I’ve been in so much pain I haven’t been able to do many things,” she said. “It’s a constant pain. I can’t even lie down in any position without feeling it.
“It is almost a negotiation with my body all the time. I can walk short distances, but then the pain becomes intolerable. These are things I never thought of before. I was a runner. It seems cliche, but it is the simple things I miss doing.
“But as wonderful as Mexico is, I would 100 per cent rather be doing this at home.”
Daniels isn’t the only Manitoban so fed up waiting for surgery they have paid for the procedure elsewhere.
In recent months, Max Johnson, former owner of a local travel agency, travelled to Lithuania for a knee replacement. Other Manitobans have paid to have surgical procedures in Latvia, the United States, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
Doctors Manitoba said Thursday the overall backlog of diagnostic and surgical procedures due to the pandemic has jumped by 7,748 in the last month, to 161,585.
The backlog for hip and knee replacements has actually dropped dramatically — but not because of a surgeon’s scalpel.
Doctors Manitoba said it had estimated the backlog for those surgeries at 9,616. However, spokesman Keir Johnson admitted Thursday the organization had based its original number on a 2019 statistic, which was later updated by Manitoba Health.
“We didn’t notice it had changed,” Johnson said. “(The surgical wait time) task force bought it to our attention. But, in the end, it doesn’t mean any changes for the people on the list.”
Johnson said he knows why people who can are opting for surgeries elsewhere.
“I totally understand why people are doing it,” he said. “We really need to bring more capacity here to get more done here.”
“I totally understand why people are doing it… We really need to bring more capacity here to get more done here.” – Keir Johnson, spokesperson for Doctors Manitoba
Daniels said it was to cost about $15,000 to have surgery in Lithuania; moving it to Mexico will cost her an extra $5,000-$6,000.
“I looked elsewhere in Canada for the surgery and it would have cost me $30,000, so it is still less to be here,” she said. “This isn’t an option for a lot of people — I don’t take this for granted.”
Daniels called for “immediate government intervention” to clear wait lists.
“A new hip or knee means a return to a basic quality of life for people, including everything from being able to work at full capacity, care for our families and, honestly, just take a walk around the block as a means of helping support one’s mental health.”
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Friday, March 11, 2022 12:18 AM CST: Fixes typo.