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Northern Zone Orthopedic Assessment Clinic (OAC) celebrates official opening

Local leaders, health care providers, staff, and Aberdeen Health Foundation representatives met for a physically-distanced tour and demonstration of the clinic. Located in the East River Business Park, the clinic began serving patients in November 2020, replacing an interim clinic established at the Aberdeen Hospital in January 2019.

Enhancing and expanding Orthopedic Assessment Clinics was a key strategy within the multi-year Hip and Knee Action Plan announced in the fall of 2017, with support from the Department of Health and Wellness.

The plan committed to increase resources available to support patients through existing clinics in Halifax, Kentville and Sydney, satellite Orthopedic Assessment Clinics including clinics in Liverpool, Sackville and Inverness, as well as the addition of two new clinics in Dartmouth and New Glasgow.

The clinics have helped transform how care is delivered to patients with hip or knee joint arthritis.

In the past patients were referred to individual surgeons and then awaited a consultation date to discuss their condition and the potential for surgery.

In the fall of 2018, Nova Scotia Health introduced a new provincial intake approach that sees patients referred to the nearest Orthopedic Assessment Clinic for more timely initial assessments.

The plan has placed a much greater focus on wellness. This includes supports to help patients manage their arthritis, better supports for patients who are not candidates for surgery (conservative management), pre-habilitation to help optimize patients for surgery and a greater focus on mobility, before and after surgery.

The wellness model is intended to offer all patients several weeks of pre-habilitation to prepare them for their surgery and recovery. However, space limitations had prevented some joint replacement sites from fully implementing these group activity and education classes.

With the opening of a new Orthopedic Assessment Clinic in Dartmouth in February 2020, and the new Orthopedic Assessment Clinic in New Glasgow, patients of all five joint replacement sites now have access to a broader range of services under the wellness model.

The Aberdeen Health Foundation was instrumental to the opening of the clinic, providing funding to furnish and equip the gym space and other necessary equipment.

“We are pleased to have expanded the supports available to patients with hip and knee joint arthritis in our communities and we are grateful to the Aberdeen Health Foundation for helping make this possible,” said Bethany McCormick, Nova Scotia Health’s vice president of operations for the Northern Zone.

“The OAC impacts both patients and health care workers, and with the focus on overall wellness, it demonstrates an important innovation in the delivery of care. It is truly an exciting initiative to be involved with,” said Michelle Farris, executive director of the Aberdeen Health Foundation.

Since opening last fall the clinic team has received almost 500 referrals, completed nearly 400 assessments and conducted just under 350 consults. They have completed two group pre-habilitation programs and will soon start their first non-surgical management program.

“The success of joint surgery can depend on how well-informed and ready a patient is,” said Dr. Vishnu Prasad, orthopedic surgeon and Aberdeen Hospital department lead for Surgery.

“With the team of professionals and services in one location, we can manage and coordinate care more effectively than in the past. Patients receive advice and education; they know their options and what to expect, and are well-prepared for surgery,” he added.

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