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Horizon plans weekend orthopedic surgical ‘blitzes’ over the winter to reduce wait list

Click to play video: 'Horizon Health hoping to ease backlog of knee and hip replacement surgeries'
Horizon Health hoping to ease backlog of knee and hip replacement surgeries
WATCH: More than 2,000 Horizon Health patients are waiting for a knee or hip replacement. The health network is planning to address that by performing up to 16 of these surgeries every Saturday this winter. Suzanne Lapointe reports.

Horizon Health Network will be using operating rooms in Fredericton, Moncton, Miramichi and Saint John on Saturdays to perform surgical “blitzes” to reduce the growing wait list for orthopedic surgeries.

The goal is to perform between 12 and 16 surgeries, which is the number normally done over the course of one month, each Saturday in addition to the surgeries normally performed during the week.

Health Minister Bruce Fitch likened the process to race car pit stops while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

“There’s a group of coordinated health-care workers who will go in and do the operation, turn the room over very quickly and have another patient,” he said.

Read more: New Brunswick woman’s life on hold due to knee surgery delays

During a press conference on Thursday, Horizon Health Interim President and CEO Margaret Melanson said the project would be staffed by current employees through voluntary overtime.

“Our hope is that we will have a rotation of staff and others that will join in the weeks and months ahead to assist with this project. (…) It’s certainly not something that we are pressuring individuals into and there’s personal choice involved in participation,” she said.

Melanson said this will not affect the emergency room staff as emergency rooms and operating rooms are staffed by different teams.

Amy McCavour, Horizon’s executive regional director and co-leader of surgical and intensive care, said that this initiative was focused on those who have been on the waiting list the longest, and who could be discharged from the hospital within 24 hours.

There are currently over 2,000 Horizon patients on the waiting list for knee and hip replacements, 700 of which have been on the waiting list for over a year.

The national benchmark for knee and hip replacements is roughly six months.

Between surgery and staffing costs, the project will cost the province roughly half a million dollars.

Read more: Horizon funding $6.4M in surgery resources at New Brunswick rural hospitals

The project starts on Saturday and will continue until the end of February, at which point Melanson said there is a chance it could continue.

“We’ll certainly be assessing it and reevaluating the outcomes and deciding from there whether for many reasons this is viable for us to continue,” she said.

Horizon is hoping to perform up to 96 surgeries through the program.

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