Saskatchewan. Woman Had Unbearable Knee Pain So Paid $28,000 For Surgery In Calgary


Betty-Lynn Nylen, 70, was physically and mentally exhausted from excruciating knee pain.

“Not even being able to perform your activities of daily living or having everything you do affected by pain…it takes a toll on you after a while,” the Saskatoon resident and social worker told the retirement during an interview.

“It was just to the point where it was unbearable.”

Nylen had been on Saskatchewan’s surgical waiting list for a year at the end of 2021, and her doctor told her it would be at least two more years before she could have knee replacement surgery.

The surgical wait list has swelled during the pandemic in Saskatchewan and other provinces as COVID-19 hogs much-needed resources.

Saskatchewan had the worst wait times in Canada for hip and knee replacement surgeries in the first 18 months of the pandemic, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

About 35,000 people are currently on the surgical waiting list, according to the Ministry of Health.

“Very lucky” to go to Calgary

Nylen decided she couldn’t take the pain any longer and underwent surgery at a private clinic in Calgary in February.

But it was no small feat – the operation cost $28,000, plus travel and accommodation.

Nylen said she recognizes she was privileged to have done this.

“We were very lucky to have access to this money. But a lot of people don’t have it and can’t afford to get to Calgary or the support. My husband has been incredibly supportive” , she said. .

Betty-Lynn Nylen said she was grateful her husband was there to support her throughout her out-of-province operation. (Submitted by Betty-Lynn Nylen)

Dr. Ian Lutz, an orthopedic surgeon from Saskatoon who specializes in hip and knee replacements, currently has the second-longest wait list in the province — 18 to 24 months.

He said some of his patients have traveled to Ontario, Alberta, the United States, Mexico and India for surgery.

“Some people are in so much pain that they can’t work and their pain wakes them up at night. I mean, it’s terrible,” Lutz said.

WATCH | Saskatchewan. patients waited longer than other Canadians for hip or knee surgery

However, Lutz said it’s best for patients to have surgery in their home province.

This way, if a problem arises after surgery, the same doctor can fix it and patients can receive consistent long-term care, unlike Saskatchewan’s health care system which bears the burden of complications from surgeries performed elsewhere.

“We all pay taxes, so it would be nice if we could just find ways to increase efficiency so that we can reduce those waiting lists,” he said.

More operating room hours, specialists

The Department of Health has said it expects a request for proposals (RFP) for additional third-party funded orthopedic surgeries to be released most likely in early July.

From April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, private clinics in Saskatchewan performed 15,610 publicly funded surgeries, according to the Department of Health. More than 10,000 were ophthalmic (eye) surgeries. About 1,700 were orthopedic surgeries.

Data beyond March has not yet been compiled.

“We are working to ensure patient needs are met across Saskatchewan,” a ministry communications consultant wrote in a statement.

The 2022-23 budget called for the province to spend $21.6 million to reduce its surgery waiting list. The money will cover the cost of around 7,000 additional procedures this year.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health said operating room hours will be extended and more specialists will travel to different communities to perform surgeries. (Lenetstan/Shutterstock)

“To achieve this, we will increase the number and types of surgeries provided at all of our surgical sites across the province to ensure that we are fully utilizing our capacity,” the statement said.

Facilities “will see a significant increase in their surgical volumes” through expanded operating room hours and more specialists traveling to different communities to perform surgeries, according to the ministry.

“This expansion will have a positive impact on those waiting for surgery, with a focus on the patients waiting the longest.”