Susan Stega

Saanich clinic RebalanceMD takes on hip, knee surgical care

Public/private partnership with RebalanceMD will see pre- and post-operative care for about 90 hip and knee patients per month

A new partnership between Island Health and a multi-disciplinary health practice in Saanich could help reduce hip and knee surgical consultation wait times by months.

The public/private partnership with RebalanceMD, a physiotherapy clinic at Uptown, will see pre- and post-operative care for about 90 hip and knee patients per month at the clinic. The result will be shorter wait times for patients waiting for knee and hip replacements, said CEO Stefan Fletcher at an announcement last week.

“(It’s an) innovative, patient-centric approach that improves the patient experience,” said Fletcher, a physiotherapist and the driver for the new partnership. Fletcher said he sees a future where RebalanceMD will host and perform the surgeries as well, though RebalanceMD isn’t a one-stop shop yet. Eighteen orthopedic surgeons are currently based out of the facility.

Surgeries will remain at either Victoria General, Royal Jubilee or Saanich Peninsula hospitals, but the new program brings together orthopedic surgeons with a full multi-disciplinary health-care team under one roof, Fletcher said.

“It’s not a shortage of surgeons,” he said. “We could have orthopedic surgeons operating every day. It’s a matter of wait times in the operating rooms.”

Creating RebalanceMD’s unique operation took years, said Dr. Zane Zarzour, an orthopedic surgeon.

“Getting a group of orthopedic surgeons together is truly like herding cats,” Zarzour quipped at the Oct. 30 announcement that included Health Minister Terry Lake.

The goal is to reduce patient wait times for those who need an orthopedic surgeon for hip or knee replacement from at least nine months to four weeks. While that’s just for the initial consultation, the same appointment could take years in other parts of the province.

“The current wait time for the same consultation is 24 months in Vancouver,” Fletcher said. “The challenge now is the wait time from consultation to surgery. There’s no reason to have that wait, and we’re working with Island Health on the next stage.”

The closest example to the current agreement between RebalanceMD and Island Health is a private clinic in Vancouver, which works around national health regulations.

The difference with the Island Health program is that it exists on a public level. This model is unique in B.C. and is being looked at around the province, Fletcher added.

Susan Strega, currently on medical leave as a professor of social work at the University of Victoria, touted the care as a pre- and post-op patient at RebalanceMD.

Strega was guided through a total knee replacement less than six weeks ago.

“I’ve really benefitted from this collaborative approach,” she said. “I’ve had (knee) problems for years and I’ve seen a lot of different set-ups around the world,” she said.

“In my first surgery, I found the maze I had to negotiate extremely confusing. There were so many places where there was an opportunity for important information to get lost, and it did get lost. Having everything all together, we can reduce the chance of that happening.”

reporter@saanichnews.com