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Long wait for surgery nears end for 96 Horizon patients after staff volunteer to work OT

A portrait of a woman wearing surgical scrubs and a surgical mask.

About 96 New Brunswickers who have been waiting up to a year for hip and knee replacements will soon see relief, thanks to a weekend surgery pilot launched Thursday by the Horizon Health Network.

Surgical teams in Fredericton, Miramichi, Moncton and Saint John have volunteered to work overtime on Saturdays between November and February to complete a “blitz” of primarily orthopedic surgeries, starting with patients who have been waiting the longest, said interim president and CEO Margaret Melanson.

“This initiative is an innovative and efficient way to continue to address our systemic challenges and barriers to providing access to surgery,” she said.

The additional surgeries are not expected to take away from any other strained health-care services, such as emergency departments, Melanson told reporters during a briefing held via Zoom.

She commended the surgeons, surgical nurses and anesthesiologists who have stepped up. They are “very conscious of the waiting list and wait times that we’re facing and willing to do their part to assist with this intense effort,” she said.

Typically, operating rooms do not run planned surgeries on weekends, but Horizon aims to complete ‘a month’s worth’ each Saturday with the help of the HIIT initiative and staff who have volunteered. (Horizon Health Network)

It’s “about improving the lives of our patients.”

Asked how Horizon will prevent burnout among the volunteers putting in the extra hours, she said the health network continues to work “very diligently” on recruitment and hopes to have a rotation of staff as others agree to join in the weeks and months ahead.

Model inspired by Formula 1 racing

The initiative, known as high-intensity interval theatre (HIIT), is recognized as an efficient way to complete “a month’s worth” of surgeries in a single day, while not putting added pressure on a hospital’s regular Monday through Friday surgical schedule, according to Horizon.

The model was created by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, a health-care organization in the U.K., and was inspired by Formula 1 racing pit stop techniques — “achieving maximum efficiency and safety by boosting surgeons’ operating time and eliminating all possible patient delays on the day.”

By focusing on one type of routine procedure for the day, the turnaround time between patients is minimized and the number of patients who can be treated is maximized.

More than 2,000 people are waiting for a hip or knee replacement within Horizon.

A woman sitting in an office.

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