Knee replacement waiting list down from 1,700 to 770

A number of initiatives has resulted in 500 knee replacement operations taking place in the first three months, with the target being to carry out some 800 by the end of the year

Waiting lists for knee replacement surgery have dropped from 1,700 to 770 in the past three years, through a number of initiatives aimed at both increasing the efficiency of the public health system and through agreements with the private sector. 

Speaking at a press conference at St. James hospital, Sliema, health minister Chris Fearne said that the initiatives were a response to the challenges posed by waiting lists over the years. 

“Moving to Mater Dei had increased the space for more patients but it was not enough and the waiting lists for various operations continued to get longer, prompting initiatives for various interventions,” he said, adding that some of those on the waiting lists for knee replacements had been waiting for some nine years. 

Fearne explained that among the initiatives, the government had started carrying out major operations including knee replacements on Sundays at Mater Dei hospital, with 500 operations carried out in just the first three months of the initiative.

"Another initiative saw some of these operations carried out at the Mosta health centre, leading to another 500 operations so far," Fearne said, adding that the government had now signed a fresh agreement to carry out full knee-replacements at St. James hospital.

He added that the private hospital was currently already carrying out day operations for patients on Mater Dei waiting lists under a previous agreement signed last year. Under the agreement, public health patients were given treatment paid for by the government, by professionals from the public health sector, at the private hospital.

The minister explained that the agreement had already resulted in operations for 300 people, leading to a further agreement for knee replacement surgeries.

“Around 150 such surgeries have already taken place,” he said explaining that there were two agreements for such operations. Under one of the agreements, patients on the public waiting list would receive treatment at the private hosptal, paid for by the government, and administered by professionals from the public health service, while the other agreement sees professionals from the private sector carrying out operations paid for by the state.

The minister added that the cost of these agreements and of the operations being carried out, had turned out on a par as operations carried out at Mater Dei. 

“The list has dropped to 770 already,” he said adding that waiting time had dropped to one year and a half, with further aims to continue cutting these waiting periods.  

He added that the target was to carry out some 800 operations under the current agreement by the end of the year, but that the government was open to signing further agreements if it was deemed necessary.

St. James hospital CEO Maria Bugeja said that she felt it was important for public and private health sectors to cooperate in the interest of serving the public more effectively. She added that she hoped that the hospital would continue to offer services to patients in the public health sector.