By Julie Dowdie
It’s a scenario that happens in doctors’ offices across Ontario every day.
A patient who has waited months – often over a year – to see an orthopaedic surgeon finally has their appointment and is told surgery is not the right treatment. Their wait begins again to see a specialist like a physiotherapist. Or, if they are referred for surgery, another frustratingly long wait is before them as they continue to deal with debilitating and often agonizing joint or lower back pain.
However, a comprehensive new model at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) is aiming to reduce these months-long waits to simply weeks.
MSH is the first hospital in Ontario to provide orthopaedic care under the Ministry of Health’s rapid access centre (RAC) model to people with hip and knee, lower back/spine, shoulder and foot and ankle joint issues.
“The RAC model is a game-changer for orthopaedic patients,” said Dr. J. Stephen McMahon, an orthopaedic surgeon at MSH and the York Region surgeon lead for the musculoskeletal hip and knee program.
McMahon explains that patients are able to have quick consultations – usually within two weeks after a referral is received from their family physician – with a skilled advanced practice physiotherapist who can assess if they are a candidate for surgery.
If surgery is the right option, their procedure is usually scheduled within two months. And if surgery is not the best treatment, the patient also can be quickly referred to another practitioner, such as a physiotherapist or sports medicine physician.
MSH orthopaedic surgeon Dr. David Santone, who heads up the RAC foot and ankle clinic, echoes McMahon’s comments.
“When I receive a referral a lot of the time the individual is not suitable for surgery, and they end up asking why they even waited for an appointment with me,” said Santone.
“Under the RAC model, surgeons like myself will be seeing only the most appropriate, pre-selected patients, avoiding needless appointments and saving our healthcare system valuable dollars.”
MSH, along with several other Ontario hospitals, have been providing hip and knee and lower back and spine care under the RAC model since 2006. MSH is the first hospital in Ontario to add foot and ankle and shoulder care to cover all four major orthopaedic areas.
“We’ve had outstanding success and are incredibly proud of the care we’ve provided to hip and knee and lower back and spine patients,” said McMahon.
“We’re looking forward to serving even more people in our community under our newly expanded model and helping them to get back to a life without joint or lower back pain.”
For more information on orthopaedic services at MSH, visit www.msh.on.ca/ortho.
Photo: Dr. David Santone examines a patient in the foot and ankle clinic.