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Milestone reached in knee surgery program

A health care milestone for the Kenora-Rainy River District was reached yesterday at the Dryden Regional Health Centre.

Dr. John Porter gave Gary Rumpel of Kenora a “new knee.”

Rumpel is the 1,000th patient to receive a knee arthroplasty through a northwest regional tri-hospital joint replacement program.

The orthopedic surgical program started in Dryden in 2002. Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. in Fort Frances and Lake of the Woods Hospital in Kenora joined the program in 2005.

Since that time, 569 knee replacements have been done in Dryden, 237 in Fort Frances, and 194 in Kenora.

There also have been 2,559 arthroscopies, 98 major ligament repairs, and 13,880 patients seen in consultation.

The result has been service closer to home for thousands of Kenora-Rainy River District residents.

The three hospitals worked together to develop common processes, share surgical equipment, and develop a common wait list.

In an effort to accommodate personal schedules, patients are given the option of having surgery in any one of the three communities regardless of where they reside.

Moving orthopedic surgery into the regional hospitals has increased the surgical capacity within the North West LHIN, supporting one of the priorities set by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care under the “Wait-Time Strategy.”

When Dr. Porter first came to Dryden in 2002, the wait time for a knee replacement in Thunder Bay was three years. The wait time in the northwest region is now two months.

The increased funding attached to the joint replacement program has made a positive contribution to the surgical services and acute care services at all three hospitals.

Statistics for the Dryden Regional Health Centre show local residents are not the only ones to benefit from this access to surgery.

From 2007-10, 24 percent of the patients were from Dryden, 39 percent from Northwestern Ontario, 23 percent from Thunder Bay, and 13 percent from communities on the north shore of Lake Superior.

One patient travelled from Ottawa to Dryden to have a knee replacement.

“These are great facilities that were under-utilized,” Dr. Porter stressed. “There are excellent OR theatres in all three hospitals, [and] excellent nursing and rehabilitation professionals.

“This was an innovative idea, taking specialized orthopedic surgery outside of major hospitals to smaller regional hospitals, using the skilled personnel and the facilities to meet the needs of people across a system,” he noted.

The knee replacement program has led to expansion in other orthopedic surgery within regional hospitals, including hip replacements and shoulder repairs. “This is a milestone that everyone should be proud of,” he enthused.

“We have successfully reduced the wait time from three years to two months by thinking outside of the box.”

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