Calloway Roller

Surgery wait keeps man off job

Fanny Bay equipment operator has been waiting for Campbell River hip replacement surgery since June 2014

A Fanny Bay man scheduled for hip replacement surgery in Campbell River earlier this year continues to wait for the operation, even as his savings begin to bleed away and his prospects for a return to work dim.

“My surgery was booked in Campbell River on June 2nd last year,” said Calloway Roller, 61, a heavy machinery operator. “I was told 12 months and probably sooner — it would never go over 12 months. I’m just about out of savings; by the end of the year it’s gonna be pretty squeaky.”

But June, July and August have passed, part of which time his surgeon spent on vacation, Roller says. And now that he’s back, his operating calendar is full through at least September.

“Generally speaking, when patients are concerned about the length of their wait time, we encourage them to contact their family physician who may be able to refer them to another physician with shorter wait times,” Island Health spokesperson Valerie Wilson said in an email.

“If a patient’s health status changes or pain level increases while waiting for surgery, we urge them to contact their family physician or surgical specialist for reassessment to ensure that they continue to be prioritized appropriately.”

Roller insists he has done all that and more, and he’s been at it for months. He’s called everyone from the Ministry of Health to the Ombudsperson’s office, and even spoke with a federal MP from Saskatchewan, where wait times for similar procedures have been cut to three months.

“My last call to (the surgeon) was three weeks ago,” he said. “They said to just wait til they phone. There’s no way I can get myself bumped up on my triage report even though my situation, my level of pain and incapacity, has increased.”

Further, through calls to other physicians’ offices, Roller has learned there is a three-month wait merely to get booked with another orthopedic surgeon, with a likely wait of another year after that to have the procedure done.

“If I start bouncing around, I’m gonna have to go back to the line,” he said. “It’s a really sick deal, our medical system right now. It’s not well.”

Island Health’s Wilson said surgeons’ offices work together with hospital booking offices to finalize surgical schedules to “optimize” patient flow and balance availability of operating room staff, equipment, anesthesia and bed space.

But much of the wait time issue has to do with physicians’ schedules, which vary from individual to individual.

“Some surgeons may perform fewer procedures or choose to work fewer hours during certain times of the year,” she said.

She noted system-wide relief should be on the way soon. Earlier this year Island Health issued a Request for Proposal seeking a surgical services partner to carry out between 3,000 and 4,000 day procedures over the five-year term of the contract.

“We have performed thousands of publicly funded day surgeries in private facilities over the past 10 years, and this has freed up OR capacity in hour hospitals to carry out more complex surgical procedures.”

But Roller’s has not been one of them, and he has begun exploring his options. Earlier this year, he even attempted a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, but got only a single contribution for $25.

“At the ministry office the other day they told me they threw another $10 million into the system to get caught up, but then all the doctors take the summer off for personal time,” he said.

To deal with his pain, Roller has a prescription for 60 milligrams daily of Oxycodin. He’s tried to cut back to the point where he can putter in his garden for an hour at a time, but that’s as much exertion as his body will take.

“I’ve been off work since November (2014) and I wanted to go back to work this winter,” he said. “If they’d done it in June like they said they were going to, I’d have been back by September.

“A year and a half is too long to wait. If it was a situation where it was not impeding my work, I can see waiting. I can’t figure out why they don’t want me out paying taxes.”