A Quesnel woman who camped out at a Prince George Hospital to protest her long surgical wait times is declaring victory in her campaign.
Denise Tessier says she left the hospital yesterday, after her G.P. promised she would have a surgery date penned in within a week.
But she says if they don’t follow through, she’ll be right back in the lobby.
“I told him I will not leave until I get a date, so, on his promise I left the hospital, but if I do not get a date on the 3rd of May, then I will be back at the hospital with my sign, and I will not leave until I get a date.”
Tessier says she’s glad to have brought attention to the issue.
“It wasn’t fun I’ll tell you that. But it did get results. And the good part is that it sounds like it could help hundreds of others who are on the wait list as well because the government is paying attention.”
Denise Tessier says she’s been waiting for a knee surgery since early 2014, and was recently told by her surgeon she could wait another year and a half.
“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, it just seems like there’s no hope, no hope.”
She says she can’t take many pain killers because they conflict with other medication, and the pain has gotten so bad she’s given up on work, and even routine daily activities.
“I rarely cook because I can’t stand long enough to do the chopping, and if I sit for too long or I stand for too long, the pain is unbearable, household chores are falling behind. I avoid social situations because it’s a matter of sitting for too long… so my life… I don’t have a life at the moment.”
To make matters worse, she says her husband has MS, along with three herniated discs – leaving her to care for him while battling chronic pain.
Up against a wall
Tessier says she feels like she’s been left without options, and is going to Prince George’s University Hospital of Northern B.C. where she’ll stage a sit-in until she’s either given a surgery date or is forcibly removed.
The 69-year-old says she’s frustrated her case has been designated an elective surgery, meaning it’s a low priority.
“To me elective surgery is something you sit back and say ‘oh, I think I’ll have a face lift.’ And it makes me very sad for what I have to go through, and it also makes me very mad. I’m really up against a wall.”
She says her Surgeon only gets one day a week in the OR, and has had all of his surgeries scrapped in June, meaning further delays.
She says she’s also upset with the way wait times are calculated, and that the health service’s booking system hides the reality of how long she and others are actually waiting.
“They seem to start the clock from the time a person actually sees the orthopedic surgeon, although it took a year- I guess over a year to get into him. And that’s when their clock starts ticking.”
Last month, a report from the Canadian Institute of Health information found wait times climbing in B.C. for hip, knee, and cataract surgeries.
At the time, the Minister of Health said those numbers didn’t take into account a $10-million infusion the province had targeted specifically at easing the surgery wait list.
The Ministry of Health has not returned a request for comment on this story.
Northern Health responds
Anne Chisholm with Northern Health says she wasn’t able to give Denise Tessier a surgery date, but did speak with her about how the wait times work.
“I think she has a better understanding of the system now. That’s not to say that she likes it, and I understand that completely. It’s difficult to be a patient waiting for surgery, and going on with your life while you’re waiting can sometimes be a challenge”
She says she understands how hard it can be to wait in pain — but that the surgical centre in Prince George is keeping up with demand.
“We’re within the provincial targets for elective surgery, and we continue to work hard to meet those targets and exceed those targets.”
The provincial benchmark for a knee replacement is a six month wait.