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Knee repair hobbled waits over year for surgery inherited 'mess' Liberals say
By: Rob Ferguson - Toronto Star
If Ruthie Zaionz could catch up to Premier Dalton McGuinty with her bum knee, she'd bend his ear about his promise to shorten long waits for surgery.
But the 62-year-old — who won't get a knee replacement operation for nine months after already waiting four months to get a consultation with a surgeon — is sticking close to home these days, painfully hobbling with the help of a cane.
Zaionz said she's furious at the delay, given the Liberal government's health tax introduced last July and McGuinty's frequent mention that there was funding for an extra 1,680 knee replacement operations last year.
"There's the underlying implication you'll get service," said the Thornhill grandmother, who was a volunteer at Baycrest hospital until her knee suddenly seized up more than a year ago.
Her case was taken up in the Legislature yesterday by Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory after she sent an email to the party's website.
"Ontarians like Mrs. Zaionz simply don't see any improvement in wait times, despite all of your talk" and despite the province's health tax, Tory told McGuinty during question period.
"Given that hip and knee replacement is one of your priority areas, why does Mrs. Zaionz have to wait over a year for her surgery? Where's the improvement you talked about?" McGuinty blamed the Conservatives for not doing more to trim wait times while in office for eight years ending in 2003.
"The honest answer is that it takes a long time to turn around the mess that we inherited," he shot back at Tory, noting the Liberals have put an additional $3 billion into health care.
"We are making progress and we are determined to do more." He said Tory's promise to repeal the health tax, which raises $2.4 billion a year, would make it tougher to fund health care in the province.
But Zaionz, who voted Liberal in the last provincial election, said the responses offered little comfort as she watched question period on her television at home.
"My blood pressure almost went through the ceiling." In the meantime, she's hoping artificial cartilage injections from her surgeon and physiotherapy — which is costing her $25 for each 15-minute session since the government stopped covering it under OHIP — will give her some relief. Health Minister George Smitherman said the government would soon set benchmarks for acceptable wait times for surgery. Tory said the wait times for Zaionz are already well beyond maximums suggested by the Canadian Medical Association earlier this month, which are nine months from consultation to surgery in routine cases.
Executive Health Options would have saved her from waiting.