A new initiative by the South West LHIN aims to help patients suffering from knee, hip and back pain to get faster access care.

Eric Riley knows first-hand how life-changing it can be to live with joint and muscle pain

“I’ve had back issues and surgery and I’ve had a total left knee replacement and two partial shoulder replacements.”

With his lived experience Riley is a patient advocate, and works with individuals who feel lost in the health care system.

He says he hears the same sentiment from patients over and over.

“Frustrating! That’s probably the biggest thing for patients who haven’t been able to access or get their needs met in a timely fashion. Frustration is the number one issue aside from pain.”

But Riley feels there’s hope for patients now that a series of new Rapid Access Clinics have opened across the region to serve those waiting for help for hip, knee and lower back pain issues.

Physiotherapist and Project Leader Rhonda Butler explains, “It allows patients to have quick access, our goal is within four weeks from when patients are referred to see an advanced practice provider.”

Butler says traditionally patients are referred to a surgeon and it can take months to get direction for care and not everyone always needs surgery in the end.

“About 30 to 40 per cent of people in the hip and knee populations and up to 80 per cent of people in the low back pain population [don’t need surgery]. Those patients are significantly helped by this program.”

When a patient is referred to the Rapid Access Clinic, Butler says they have access to physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chiropractors or nurse practitioners who can work with the patient on a therapeutic plan.

“Patients have been very happy with the process and they’ve been very excited about the information they’ve received and they’ve found the experience to be very helpful,” Butler says.

There are several Rapid Access Clinics across our region spanning from Owen Sound and Wingham to Woodstock, London, Strathroy, Stratford, and St. Thomas.