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Arthritis Society calls for Canadian Task Force to address joint replacement wait times

Media Release:

Releases working group report with recommendations to improve the system for patients

TORONTO – June 23, 2021 – With far too many Canadians facing excessively long waits for joint replacement surgery, the Arthritis Society is calling for immediate action to address the growing crisis.

“The waiting is terrible. It’s very depressing. Some days, the pain is so bad in my knee, I can’t even stand,” says Holly Klein, a retired teacher from Montreal. “It impacts my quality of life. When you’re experiencing pain that is so debilitating you can’t enjoy life anymore, people need to take that seriously.”

Klein has been waiting 18 months for a knee replacement with her current surgeon but has been living with knee pain for more than 17 years.

Long waits for joint replacement surgery were common across the country before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the health-care system and the pandemic just exacerbated the crisis. About one-third of hip and knee replacements weren’t happening within the recommended six months in 2019, but that jumped to about half during the first six months of the pandemic.

“We need to innovate and make bold changes because the status quo is not working,” says Trish Barbato, President and CEO of the Arthritis Society. “We’re calling on everyone – policy experts, clinicians and governments – to collaborate to make things better for patients through the creation of a Canadian Wait Times Task Force.”

The call for a pan-Canadian task force to address wait times is at the heart of The Wait: Addressing Canada’s Critical Backlog of Hip and Knee Replacement Surgeries [PDF 376kB], which was released today. The Wait harnesses the collective experience of a working group of experts from across the country convened by the Arthritis Society. They offered solutions to address long wait times, which include:

  • Ensuring innovative models of care are replicated and shared widely so more Canadians have access to their benefits.  
  • Standardizing how patient data is collected and reported on across the country, to make it easier to set national standards and benchmarks.
  • Leveraging digital technology to reduce wait times, maximize limited health resources and improve co-ordination of care.
  • Increasing access to community-based joint health management programs, so more patients have access to proven programs that effectively manage pain pre-op and better optimize results post-op.
  • Ensuring savings from surgical efficiencies are re-invested into improving patient care.

“The time for Band-Aid solutions and temporary stop gaps is over,” says Dr. Bob Bell, a member of the Arthritis Society's working group. “It’s time to do things differently and make real changes. Patients deserve answers to the backlogs and deserve shorter wait times for care.” 

While the surgery backlog balloons, the demand is also increasing significantly. In recent years, hip and knee replacement surgeries have increased by 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of people living with arthritis – the condition responsible for the vast majority of these procedures – is expected to grow by 50 per cent by 2040.


About the Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society is Canada’s national charity dedicated to creating a world where people are free from the devastating effects of arthritis. The passion to alleviate suffering that inspired our founders in 1948 continues to drive us today. Thanks to the trust and support of our donors and volunteers, the Arthritis Society is the largest charitable funder of cutting-edge arthritis research in Canada and a leader in proactive advocacy, innovative information and support that delivers better health outcomes for the people we serve. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program. For more information, visit

For more information or to arrange interviews: 
Danielle Milley
Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
Arthritis Society 

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