Surgeon reflects on impact of pandemic


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An unexpected pang of grief hit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Turgeon after learning a new operating room would open at Concordia Hospital in a matter of months.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/04/2022 (355 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

An unexpected pang of grief hit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Turgeon after learning a new operating room would open at Concordia Hospital in a matter of months.

The Winnipeg physician was forced to hold back tears while reflecting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his patients and the distress of being unable to help those languishing on wait lists.

“Patients have been cancelled multiple times and the amount of disability that has developed due to COVID and the delays in care, it brings me to tears,” said Turgeon, before pausing to collect his composure.

“It is heartbreaking to see our patients suffering knowing that with a relatively small amount of my time — it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to do a hip or a knee replacement — that’s going to have a dramatic improvement in their quality of life that will last for years,” he said.

“To not be able to do that, it’s just so difficult.”

Turgeon was reacting to the provincial government’s plans to open a fifth operating room at Concordia Hospital, where he practises as an academic orthopedic joint replacement surgeon.

On Wednesday, the province’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force said it will hire a new surgeon, invest anesthesia staff and add four in patient beds to the hospital to increase joint replacement surgery capacity by 1,000 cases annually.

Advocacy group Doctors Manitoba estimates the backlog of hip and knee surgeries to include more than 2,200 cases; the median wait time for those procedures meanwhile was 28 weeks, as of February, according to Manitoba Health.

Turgeon, speaking as a member of the non-profit Canadian Orthopaedic Association, said provinces across the country have all seen wait lists for joint replacement surgeries grow significantly over the past two years.

“Hip and knee arthroplasty have been especially hit hard, as have some of the other elective orthopedic procedures that are viewed differently by administrators because they’re things that can be made to wait,” Turgeon said.

He welcomed the additional investment by the province in orthopedic care and said plans to refurbish the operating room are realistic and likely to increase capacity in the medium term.

However, ongoing staffing shortages in the health system could be a limiting factor, Turgeon said. A COVID-19 resurgence could also derail efforts to deliver hundreds more surgeries out of the northeast Winnipeg hospital.

“With every plan, there’s always caveats,” Turgeon said. “The human resources issue is a true issue.”

Recruitment efforts for a new surgeon to join the Concordia Hip and Knee Institute are underway with the interview process set to begin in the coming weeks, he noted.

“We’re pleased that we’re able to get a number of very qualified people,” Turgeon said. “It’s always anxiety provoking when you put out an advertisement for a position to see what kind of response you’ll get.”

And while expectations are high, Turgeon acknowledged the province’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force has a massive job ahead.

“They’re moving forward and they’re tackling multiple issues at once,” he said. “It’s going to be a progressive, step-wise process.

“This is another step on the path to get us back to where we need to be, where the patients of Manitoba need us to be.”

According to the province, adding an additional operating room at Concordia Hospital will cost approximately $700,000, half of which must be raised by the hospital’s foundation.

The surgical program is estimated to cost about $4.9 million.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.


Updated on Monday, April 4, 2022 6:31 AM CDT: Fixes cutline

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