‘Waiting three years is not health care’ Woman, whose knee surgery is set for 2025, says that’s why online tracker missing

Winnipegger Lenore McLaughlin thought she would have to wait months for a new knee — she didn’t realize it will take years.

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Winnipegger Lenore McLaughlin thought she would have to wait months for a new knee — she didn’t realize it will take years.

The 63-year-old, who uses a brace and a cane, said she can’t believe she won’t get her surgery before February 2025.

“Why does Manitoba Health announce a 42-week waiting list (on its website) when the WRHA says I have a 132-week waiting time?” she said on Thursday. “I’ve already been waiting five months.

“Waiting three years is not health care.”

The Stefanson government has been repeatedly criticized for failing to launch an online tracker so the public can keep tabs on surgical and diagnostic backlogs. The promise was made as part of the government’s response to ballooning wait times after the pandemic forced the shutdown of surgical suites.

The government set up a task force to tackle the massive problem, and last June, the task force said the government would begin publishing its backlog estimates by late summer. Then, in August, Manitoba Health said it would put out monthly updates on median wait times, as well as list the number of patients on wait lists and the number of procedures that had been completed.

Late last month, a government spokesman would only say the online tracker would launch in the “near future.”

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara grilled the health minister about the delay during Wednesday’s question period.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon would only say “wait times data is available on the government website, including surgeries, diagnostic, cancer care services and we will release the dashboard when it is ready.”

Keir Johnson, a spokesman for Doctors Manitoba, which advocates for the province’s doctors, said they’ve been shown previews of the online tracker, and they don’t understand why it hasn’t been released to the public.

“We’ve had several meetings with the task force,” Johnson said. “We know the task force is working hard on it and we’ve seen previews of it.

“We’re just not clear why the province hasn’t released it yet.”

Johnson said the versions they’ve seen include wait-time numbers.

“At the end of the day, a dashboard doesn’t get somebody’s surgery or tests done faster,” he said. “The problem is we don’t know how fast progress is being made on the backlog because there’s no dashboard yet.

“The dashboard would be a positive step to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

On Thursday, a spokesman for the health minister said she wasn’t available to talk about the online tracker.

“The (task force) has a team of experts in conjunction with stakeholders who have been working to develop the dashboard and are in the final review stages with an expected launch in the coming weeks,” the spokesman said.

“At the end of the day, a dashboard doesn’t get somebody’s surgery or tests done faster.”–Keir Johnson

A Shared Health spokesman said more hip and knee surgeries are being done than earlier in the pandemic: 506 joint procedures were done in August, which represents a 67 per cent increase from August 2021. The system is on pace to perform more than 5,500 hip and knee surgeries this fiscal year, a 40-plus per cent increase from the previous fiscal year.

“There is undoubtedly more work to do in this area. Everyone in the health-care system remains committed to improving diagnostic and surgical wait times.”

According to the Manitoba Health website, which lists some stats, wait times for hip and knee replacements are at a median of 42 weeks, up from 35 weeks in June, and much higher than the 20 to 30 weeks it was prior to the pandemic.

Cataract surgery wait times are at 12 weeks at the Misericordia Health Centre and eight weeks at the Western Surgery Centre.

But, Johnson pointed out those wait times don’t tell the full story.

“Cataract wait times appear finally to be falling, and there appears to be more procedures happening there than before the pandemic,” he said.

“But without the new dashboard, it’s not clear how much progress has been made on clearing the backlog.”

Asagwara said the Tories should give the go-ahead to release the online tracker.

“Hiding this information only serves to further undermine trust…”–Uzoma Asagwara

“The minister said (Wednesday) it is not ready. What is concerning about this information is with Doctors Manitoba saying it is ready to go, what is the real reason the government is withholding it?

“Hiding this information only serves to further undermine trust… they could very well be dodging this because they don’t want to face Manitobans.”

McLaughlin says because of her own experience she suspects she knows why the government hasn’t put the dashboard online.

“They don’t want to publish the dashboard because there are 132-week wait lists,” she said.

“Right now, my surgery will be February 2025. That is unacceptable.”

McLaughlin, who has osteoarthritis, said she had her right knee replaced in 2018, but was told her left knee didn’t need surgery at that time.

She said back in April she injured her knee and, after going to the Pan Am Clinic to get it checked out, the doctor told her “you need a knee replacement right away.”

“It has been hurting me for years. I already have a cane and brace — how will I be three years from now?

“What help will be available in the future as arthritis continues to ravage my every joint?”


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

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 Thursday, October 13, 2022 8:50 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of Lenore

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