When plans for a new orthopedic assessment clinic (OAC) in New Glasgow were introduced, the Aberdeen Health Foundation recognized immediately how exciting and important the new facility and services would be for the community.
“The Foundation has been a very positive partner to work with,” says Tanya MacDonald, Nova Scotia Health’s Health Services Manager for Rehabilitation Services and the Orthopedic Assessment Clinic at Aberdeen Hospital. “It was a large proposal and their funding was integral to equipping the clinic. The OAC is a game changer for patients who require hip or knee joint replacements and for the provincial strategy to improve wait times. We can now provide more robust pre-habilitation programs, and offer services that simply weren’t available in the Northern Zone.”
The Foundation committed $100,000 to the clinic, which opened in November 2020. Funding included fully equipping the gym space, one of the exam rooms, and the kitchen, which is used for the pre-habilitation program.
“The clinic was an ideal fit for Foundation funding,” says Executive Director, Michelle Ferris, “it impacts both patients and health care workers, and with the focus on overall wellness demonstrates important innovation in the delivery of care. It’s a truly exciting initiative to be involved with.”
With the opening of the clinic in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia Health marked a major milestone in its plan to improve access and care for joint replacement patients. Enhancing and expanding orthopedic assessment clinics was a key strategy within the Hip and Knee Action Plan announced in the fall of 2017. Today, steady gains have been made to increase the number of joint replacement surgeries being completed, while transforming how care is delivered to patients with hip or knee joint arthritis.
In the past patients were referred to individual surgeons and then awaited a consultation date to discuss their condition and potential for surgery. Now the approach sees all patients referred to the OAC for a central intake which contributes to more timely initial assessments. Average wait times between the referral and a surgeon consult have been reduced to levels within the national benchmark.
Since opening in November, despite COVID restrictions and limitations the OAC has had 410 referrals, completed 350 assessments and 295 patients have consulted with an orthopedic surgeon.
The approach places much greater focus on wellness. This includes supports to help patients manage their arthritis, supports for those who are not yet candidates for surgery, pre-habilitation to help optimize patients for surgery and a greater focus on mobility, before and after surgery.
Keith Appleton, who awaits knee surgery can attest to the value and benefits of the program. Keith was part of the first group of patients through the pre-habilitation program and commended the facility, and exceptional team working with him. He also mentioned how valuable it was to be with people in the same situation supporting one another. The group included candidates for knee and hip surgeries. “I’m in better shape now with more tools and ability to manage and cope with my pain,” explains Keith. “The clinic was very focused on overall well-being and was tremendous for both my physical and mental health. I feel more prepared now for surgery and post-surgery rehabilitation. It some ways, the experience has been a real life changer. ”
Dr. Vishnu Prasad, Orthopedic Surgeon and Aberdeen Hospital Department Lead for Surgery appreciates the advantages of the multi-disciplinary approach available through the OAC. “A surgeon has to look beyond the ‘operation or surgical’ side of things,” he says. “The success of joint surgery can depend on how well informed and ready a patient is. With the team of professionals and services in one location we can certainly manage and coordinate care more effectively than in the past. Patients receive advice and education, they know their options and what to expect, and are well prepared physically for surgery. The clinic is really a fantastic place for everyone involved.”
“The Foundation has been investing in the orthopedic program for a number of years,” says Aberdeen Health Foundation, Chair, Robyn Eaton. “The opening of the OAC was eagerly anticipated and we’re proud to see how the sustained commitment has established the Aberdeen’s program as a centre of excellence, integral to the province’s new strategy.”
The Aberdeen Health Foundation will be reporting on its investments in the OAC and other areas of care at its Annual General meeting on March 25, 2021. More information is available at: aberdeenhealthfoundation.ca/AGM2021
Pictured: Keith Appleton was part of the first group of patients to participate in the pre-habilitation program at the New Glasgow orthopedic assessment clinic. In this picture, physiotherapist Elizabeth MacDougall is rating his perceived exertion and monitoring how he is feeling.