Thousands of BC residents wait in pain for orthopaedic consultations

Posted on: August 1st, 2017     |     Category: Member-News, News

August 1, 2017

Vancouver, BC ~ Thousands of British Columbia residents in pain wait more than a year for an initial consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon, according to a recent study by the BC Orthopaedic Association.

Dr. Kevin Wing, a Clinical Professor in UBC’s Department of Orthopaedics, and immediate past president of the BC Orthopaedic Association and lead author explained that the study, conducted over 2016-17, followed patient’s episodes of care and revealed 16,632 consultations were performed by orthopaedic surgeons on request of referring physicians. “Fully half of those patients waited – some in great pain – more than 21 weeks to see me or one of my colleagues just for a consultation,” he said. “Almost 1,700 patients waited longer than 64 weeks for their consultation. This is not acceptable.”

Wing said many orthopaedic surgeons ‘triage’ patients based on medical urgency and emergency orthopaedic cases are treated immediately, but the wait time for both consultation and the subsequent second wait time for those who need surgery is far too long for patients who need relief from pain and immobility. “Half of the 3,885 surgical patients in the study waited more than 33 weeks for surgery and 389 patients waited longer than 78 weeks from the time they signed their consent forms for surgery,” Wing, a foot and ankle specialist at St. Paul’s Hospital, explained. “Half of those 3,885 patients also waited longer than 61 weeks from the time they were first referred by their family doctor to the day of their surgery.

“The scope of the problem is not being acknowledged by our elected officials and the bureaucracy that runs our healthcare system,” Wing pointed out. “We need major reform for our patients to receive what they are entitled to: timely access to care. As surgeons, we are dependent on many other resources in the system and we cannot make all the changes needed alone; we all have to work together to fix our broken system.”

The BCOA funds the “Wait Time Initiative” which collects patient wait times from the electronic records of orthopaedic surgeons’ offices throughout the province. The data tracks both first and second wait times; the first the time it takes for a patient referred by a family doctor to be seen by an orthopaedic surgeon and the second the time it takes for those patients who need surgery to receive it.

To add your voice to the conversation about timely access to care, email the BC Minister of Health at or the Federal Minister of Health at

For more about timely access to healthcare, see, and call 250-881-2262.