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The Progressive Conservative government will spend an additional $5.3 million to boost the number of hip and knee replacements and cataract surgeries in Manitoba in an attempt to reduce some of the longest waits in Canada for the procedures.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the province is using savings it has been able to achieve in transforming the health system and making it more efficient to free up the cash to tackle chronically long waits in targeted areas.
"Manitobans have waited long enough," he said at an announcement at Winnipeg's Concordia Hospital, where many joint replacements are done.
More than 4,100 hip and knee replacements and 12,900 cataract surgeries were performed in Manitoba in the last fiscal year.
The new funding will ensure at least 1,000 additional hip and knee replacements are performed next year — a nearly 25 per cent increase, Friesen said. The money will also fund at least 2,000 additional cataract surgeries in 2019 — a 16 per cent increase.
Manitoba has the country's longest waits for cataract surgery, and among the longest waits for joint replacement surgery, the minister said.
There are currently 1,700 Manitobans waiting for hip and knee replacements and 8,500 awaiting cataract surgery. With a rapidly aging population, these waiting lists would only have grown unless additional capacity was added to the system.
As of late September, the median wait time in Winnipeg for a knee replacement was 30 weeks. In Brandon, it was 45 weeks, and at the Boundary Trails Health Centre in Winkler, it was 73 weeks, according to the health department website.
For hip replacement surgery, the median wait in Winnipeg and Brandon was 28 weeks, while for Boundary Trails it was 50 weeks.
Median cataract surgery waits in Manitoba in September ranged from six weeks at the Western Surgery Centre in Winnipeg to 27 weeks at the Swan Valley Health Centre. At Misericordia Health Centre, where the bulk of the cataract surgeries are performed in Manitoba, the median wait was 19 weeks.
The decision to provide more funding to reduce wait lists for the three procedures was made following a report by the government's wait times reduction task force.
Dr. Jack McPherson, director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's surgery program, said officials will monitor wait lists and wait times to ensure the new funds achieve the anticipated results.
McPherson, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and a member of the province's wait times task force, said surgical and technological advances are allowing the system to perform an increasing number of procedures per day.
Where Concordia once did three hip and knee replacements a day, it can now do five. Where a patient once remained in hospital for two weeks after a joint replacement, that time has now been reduced to two or three days, McPherson said. And for some selected patients, he added, joint replacement is now done as day surgery.
Cataract surgeries are also being performed more quickly, with many being performed using freezing instead of anesthetic.
Cynthia Velie, a recent cataract surgery patient who participated in Thursday's announcement, said the procedure was life-changing. She had surgery on her left eye Tuesday, and on her right eye five weeks ago.
"Prior to that, I would not have been able to see any of your faces," she told gathered journalists and health officials. "And today, I have 20/20 vision."
Additional hip and knee surgeries will be performed at Concordia, Grace Hospital and Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and Boundary Trails in Winkler. All additional cataract surgeries will be performed at Misericordia.
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.
Updated on Thursday, November 22, 2018 at 4:13 PM CST: writethrough