Dear Ms. Hoffman:
I am a relatively health 59 year old woman who suffers from severe osteoarthritis of my hip. I have therefore unfortunately entered the endless cycle of waiting for surgical services in Alberta. I am trying to understand why our wait times are so long, but am having an extremely difficult time finding the right information to explain this backlog. According to my doctor and other front line medical workers, the waits are not due to a lack of staff or facilities. Instead, they are due to a lack of funding for surgeries. Again, I have a difficult time understanding this lack of funding when we have such a healthy budget for healthcare in our province. As you are aware, our province spends $21.4 billion per year on healthcare, or over 45% of the total provincial budget.
I beg of you to please find a way to streamline our system. I know I am just one of the thousands of Albertans who are forced to give up on our dreams, change our lives, and sit back and wait for help for what ails us. I must face the reality of changing my life from a very active and involved community member to someone sidelined by pain. Instead of spending my early retirement years fearlessly taking on new adventures and challenges, volunteering for community events, and so on, I now must face different challenges. Simple tasks have become difficult. Instead of taking pride in parking in the farthest spot from the shopping mall’s doorway so I could get in a few extra steps, I am now looking for a small store with parking close to the door so I can handle the trek in and out of the store. Shopping malls are becoming my enemy, as they are too large to navigate. I now look for a grocery store that has free shopping carts near the doorway so I can lean on the cart while I shop. Instead of going about my daily activities without even a second thought, Going to the bank, taking care of the house, and taking care of the yard have become activities that I have to think carefully about so I can find the most pain-free way to get them done. In other words, at less than 60 years old, I have joined the army of seniors with mobility challenges.
Not only are my daily activities now more difficult, but my health is challenged.
Last year I was very active. I managed to lose weight, reduce my cholesterol and blood pressure, and become a very healthy Albertan, other than what was then moderate arthritis. But this year, reduced mobility is starting to take a toll. When I do walk, my gait is misaligned so my other joints are stressed. I feel my knee and foot starting to suffer. I believe that by the time I have surgery, I will have seriously damaged my other hip, knees, and feet from the stress put on them when I try to compensate for a sore hip. I also am finding it difficult to maintain a high fitness level, leaving me vulnerable to other health challenges. In my opinion, the longer I wait for surgery, the more of a burden I will become to the health care system because of problems resulting from dealing with the pain.
I also ask you to consider the overall decline in my quality of life resulting from an outrageous wait for surgery. I had all sorts of plans for my early retirement years, including finding rewarding part-time work and volunteer activities. I worked hard my whole life so that I could fulfill them. But most of these are now gone. From start to finish, this process will take over two years, including the basic recovery time. I will have lost some of the prime years for reaching my dreams. As an Albertan who has actively contributed to our economy and society, I find this possibility very depressing.
Yes, I know you can argue that I can still find a rewarding life – and yes, I can still be involved in many things, and offer a positive contribution to our society. And yes, I know my problems are small compared to many other very ill Albertans. And you would be right. But that doesn’t mean my plight should be minimized or rationalized. . The ridiculously long wait system has robbed me of my choices, of my plan for my life. I am the one who has to deal with the pain every time I take a step, or move my leg. I am the one who has to deal with a lack of sleep difficult because it is difficult to get comfortable at night. I am the one who has to look longingly at those who simply walk pain free to the neighbour’s house for a visit. I am the one of the many who has to suffer while we hopefully wait for that magical phone call from the surgeon’s office saying that they finally have a date for surgery. I ask you to consider those of us who suffer daily with pain while we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and the wait some more, for help from our health care system. I beg of you to find a way to make our system more efficient so that people like me are not face with interminable waits for so-called elective procedures.
I ask you to consider the following information, which I am sure is typical of the thousands of Albertans like me who are stuck in our system. Look at our wait times and ask yourself what you can do to make this insanity stop. http://waittimes.alberta.ca/
Date of my initial referral from frontline practitioner: January 16
Date of Diagnostic X-Ray – February 21
Date of Diagnosis through Chinook Bone and Joint Clinic – March 16
Date of Initial Surgeon Appointment: June
Probable number of weeks before surgery after June appointment: 48 – 60 (10 – 14 months)
Total anticipated wait time from initial referral: 80 – 90 weeks, or 20 months, or almost 2 years.
Full recovery time – 6 months to 1 year
Total time lost: As long as 2.5 to 3 years from initial referral to full recovery
Enough said. Make it stop.
“A Hurtin’ Albertan”