Manitoba is on pace to perform 300 fewer hip and knee replacement surgeries this year than the target set by the Pallister government. Health officials say, however, they are confident the gap can be closed.
A year ago, Health Minister Cameron Friesen promised an additional $5.3 million to boost the number of joint replacements and cataract surgeries.
While cataract surgery totals appear on track to meet the government's goal, the pace of joint replacements is falling short, particularly at Concordia Hospital, one of the two large centres for such procedures in Manitoba.
Friesen told a news conference last November the government would ensure "at least 1,000 more hip and knee replacement surgeries" would be performed in calendar 2019, compared to the baseline of 4,100 done in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. That would mean a total of at least 5,100 surgeries this year.
As of the end of August, the latest date for which figures are available, Manitoba had performed 3,199 joint replacements, putting it on pace to do 4,800 by Dec. 31.
Joint replacements at Concordia are so far trending downward compared with last year.
Between April 1 and Aug. 31, there were 660 hip and knee surgeries performed at the Winnipeg hospital. At that rate, it will perform only 1,584 joint replacements over the course of the fiscal year, compared with 1,888 a year earlier.
Valerie Wiebe, Concordia president and chief operating officer, said the hospital has added extra surgical time to increase its totals.
"Regardless of our year-over-year surgery volumes to date, we can confirm that we have planned additional (surgical) slates to ensure we meet our target for additional hip and knee surgeries by the end of this year," she said in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, Friesen said this week he is confident the province is "on track" to meet its targets of 2,000 additional cataract procedures and 1,000 additional hip and knee replacements.
The bulk of joint replacement surgeries in Manitoba are performed at Concordia and Grace hospitals. The surgeries are also done at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, and Boundary Trails Health Centre in Winkler.
A source said the staffing situation at Concordia is tight, and it's unclear where the institution will get the resources it needs to do an extra two hours of surgery each weekday and as well as a regular shift on Saturdays, as planned.
"We are behind (in joint replacements) as a result of consolidation," the source said, referring to the citywide hospital reorganization plan that has seen staff shifted from institution to institution.
The closure this year of Concordia's emergency department and ICU has also caused a number of last-minute surgical cancellations out of concern that certain patients might require intensive care, the source said.
The Manitoba Nurses Union is also skeptical about whether the province can meet its joint-replacement goal.
Union president Darlene Jackson said she's pleased the government set higher targets this year for hip and knee surgeries, particularly given the aging population.
"But if you don't have the staff and you don't have the (hospital) structure to be able to do that, it's not a promise that you can actually carry out," she said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.