Original Published on Nov 09, 2022 at 01:16
By Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
For three years, Zoe Rivet has been in pain.
When she was just nine months old, the now nine-year old girl from Sudbury was diagnosed with Kabuki syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that can impact growth, facial appearance, and mental development.
“Her major issue is she’s got very low tone in her body,” said Zoe’s mother, Danielle Rivet. “The muscles in her body are not nearly as strong as another kid her age. That has been the baseline for the majority of the surgeries and treatments that she’s had to go through.”
According to Danielle, Zoe has always been a happy kid.
“She is like a little ray of sunshine,” she said. “She is just so positive. She just keeps trucking along and doing what she does. If it wasn’t for her having that positive attitude, I think it would be a lot different for myself and her dad.”
But three years ago, Zoe started to have difficulty with her mobility and was in more pain than usual.
“She’d had surgery on both of her hips,” said Danielle. “During her recovery, she started walking kind of abnormally. They just figured it was just her recovering slowly. But then they found out that it was, in fact, a kneecap, which had dislocated.”
Now waiting three years for surgery
In the middle of the pandemic, Zoe was referred to a specialist. Soon, it was clear that she would need surgery to fix the issue with her knee.
Three years later, Zoe and her family are still waiting for the procedure.
In Ontario, thousands of patients have been left waiting months and even years for surgeries due to an ongoing backlog caused by the pandemic. During the provincial election over the summer, the Ontario Medical Association said COVID-19 led to significant delays, as demand on the system increased and exhausted staff working in understaffed facilities left the profession in droves.
At one point, there were as many as one million patients across the province waiting for procedures, the organization said.
Since dislocating her knee, Zoe has been on the waitlist for knee surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.
“When we first saw the doctor, he said early 2022,” said Danielle. “And that day just kept getting pushed and pushed and pushed, every time. Now they’re telling us hopefully within the next six weeks, we’ll have a date.”
But like many patients in Ontario, they’re not getting their hopes up.
“Cancellations are their new normal,” said Danielle. “It’s possible that we can drive down the day or and they could still cancel her surgery.”
And while she waits, Zoe is still in pain.
“It’s the absolute worst, seeing how it affects her,” said Danielle. “It’s not only affecting her knee now; it’s affecting her overall health. She’s become more immobile and she’s depending a lot more on her wheelchair. It’s hard to just sit and wait when you know that they’re a solution that you can provide. You have to wait for the doctors.”
Province spending to capacity
In response to a request for comment, the Ontario Ministry of Health said the government was committed to providing funding to hospitals to address the backlog.
As part of its Surgical Recovery strategy, in 2022-23, the province will be spending $300 million to ramp up surgeries and procedures, address long wait times, and improve areas that saw the greatest reduction in services. It will also support 150,000 more hours of MRI and CT diagnostic imaging scans.
“We’re addressing the urgent staffing pressures of today to ensure as many patients as possible receive care as we pivot the health system back towards recovery,” they said. “We know many other provinces across the country are facing the same pressures we’re facing here in Ontario and that more work needs to be done. We look forward to continuing to work with all partners … to address any challenges and keep Ontario open.”
West calls on province to reduce backlog
Sudbury MPP Jamie West said the provincial government is not doing enough to help patients like Zoe get the surgeries they need.
“Zoe’s quality of life has been steadily declining,” said West. “Zoe’s mother, Danielle, tells me her daughter spends many days in tears because of the pain. Zoe has been waiting far too long already — continuing to get bumped further and further back. What eigh-year-old girl do you know wishes for knee surgery? Zoe does. Every day.”
West has called on the province to provide more funding and staffing needed, to clear the surgical backlog and improve the efficiency of the healthcare system.
“It’s not Ok to leave Zoe and her mom waiting a day longer,” said West. “The government has the power to provide the funding and staffing needed to help children like Zoe get the surgeries they need, and they need to do so immediately.”