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Man travelling to U.S. for hip replacement

A Red Deer County senior says severe hip pain is forcing him to go to the United States for hip replacement surgery.

Bill Welikoklad, 77, said that in December a doctor was finally convinced he needed surgery, despite his having pain since June.

Welikoklad said he was informed it would take four to six months for an appointment with a surgeon and another six months to a year for surgery.

Instead of waiting, he opted to call the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., in mid-January and will be on the operating table on March 6.

Welikoklad said it’s terrible that people living in pain should have to wait for surgery.

“I think this is disgusting. It should never happen. The amount of pain I have gone through, nobody will ever know,” said Welikoklad on Monday.

“I take 12 pills of Tylenol 4 a day and now I’ve also got morphine and I’ve got Percocet.”

The pain still wakes him up in the middle of the night and the pills are wrecking his stomach, he said.

Next week, Welikoklad will have his right hip replaced at a cost of about $70,000. In 2010, he had his left hip replaced, also at the Mayo Clinic, after giving up waiting for surgery in Alberta.

In Alberta, it would have taken 11-and-a-half months just to speak to a surgeon regarding his first hip surgery, he said.

Welikoklad feels bad for people who can’t afford to pay to get surgery elsewhere.

Canada’s health-care system isn’t working, he said.

“What the hell good is it if it’s free if you can’t use it.”

“You’ve got to have some private enterprise. If you don’t have any private clinics, it will never work.”

Once you do finally get in for treatment, the service is good, he said, adding Alberta has to get caught up with the demand.

According to Alberta Health Services, currently 90 per cent of those waiting for a hip replacement will have surgery within 35.2 weeks from the date of the decision to treat made by the surgeon.

That’s an 11 per cent improvement from last year when 90 per cent of people waited 39.7 weeks.

Dr. Jason Werle, co-chair of the hip and knee working group with Alberta’s Bone and Joint Strategic Clinical Network, said Tuesday that hip replacement is definitely an important surgery for quality of life and patient health and there is a significant backlog of people waiting for surgery.

“There will come a time, we hope, that the wait times will be reduced and we’ll kind of hit that steady state and be able to manage it appropriately,” said Werle, who is from Calgary.

In Alberta, 9,000 replacements will be done this fiscal year.

“Actually it’s a larger number than we’ve done before. We’re certainly increasing in a step-wise fashion in actual volume. The idea being if we increase the volume, the wait times will also diminish.”

Werle said patients can be moved around and seen sooner if they are not doing well. Family physicians can advocate to the surgeon and care can also be expedited by choosing the next available surgeon instead of a specific surgeon.

“The family physician is still kind of the point person to help guide that patient until they are in the system and actually seen by the case management team.”

If the patient doesn’t have a family doctor, the patient can be referred by emergency staff, or even allied health care workers like physiotherapists or chiropractors, he said.



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