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AHS changes make for disjointed experience for St. Albert couple after hip replacement

Changes were made by AHS to the way physiotherapy is covered.
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Neither Sherry (left) nor Dennis Holyk were impressed with the amount of time they had to spend getting information about which St. Albert physiotherapy clinic offers therapy for hip replacement that is covered by Alberta Health Services. JESSICA NELSON/St. Albert Gazette

Dennis Holyk was not expecting to have trouble finding a physiotherapist covered by Alberta Health Services after his hip-replacement surgery.

“Boy, this has been a real battle,” he said in an interview with The Gazette this week.

Dennis had hip-replacement surgery in January. On March 16, he went in for his seven-week check-in appointment at the Edmonton Bone and Joint Centre and got the go-ahead to get physiotherapy.

His wife, Sherry, said as soon as he got home, he called his favourite physiotherapy clinic.

“He phoned and his favourite one said, ‘No, as of March 1, we don't provide the Alberta Health-covered physio services anymore,'” she said.

He called another physio clinic and they said physiotherapy for hip replacement was no longer covered at their location.

He called a third clinic, and they gave him a phone number to call.

“So, on that day, Dennis called the number. After the 45-minute mark, he just gave up and hung up,” Sherry said.

Sherry said she also tried the number and hung up after 10 minutes.

On March 31, they tried again, and Dennis was on hold for nearly three hours before he got through.

Sherry said, as they were on hold, at the 10-minute mark, a recorded message told them to go to for post-surgery physiotherapists.

“I mean, [the website is] a gong show, too. But I eventually got one number that kind of popped up. And it's kind of a main number. And the guy that directed me, he said, ‘Oh, it looks like Active in St. Albert.’ And I said, ‘Well, the one in Tudor Glen just informed my husband last week that they don't cover.’ He goes, ‘Oh well, maybe it's this other one,’” said Sherry.

Sherry said he transferred her over, but the call dropped.

“But it would have been [the wrong clinic] anyway,” Sherry said.

Sherry said they eventually found someone who could direct them to a clinic that offered AHS-covered physiotherapy, and Dennis did get booked in for an assessment at Active Physio Works at Servus Credit Union Place — the only location in St. Albert that offers physiotherapy for hip-replacement surgery, according to the AHS website.

Sherry said she is worried about the elderly people who don’t have access to a computer, or people who don’t have days to call around and figure things out.

Dennis said it seems like everyone either doesn’t have the information or has the wrong information.

He thinks staff should have been able to give him the information about physiotherapist clinic coverage changes directly at the Edmonton Bone and Joint Centre during his check-in.

“At the bone and joint clinic where I went, I saw the nurse, the physical therapist, the surgeon all in one day, and I got the requisition. I even asked her if a place in St. Albert was still on the list, and she said yes. She didn't even have the information. And you think that those people would be the first people? They’re front line. They should know,” he said.

After being on hold for three hours, Dennis asked the person on the other end of the AHS phone number why he had such a lengthy wait. She told him they had been bombarded with calls they were not prepared for, said Dennis. 

“I'm normally not a venter,” said Sherry. “But when we were having trouble, I started [thinking] we have two friends right now coming up waiting for hip surgery. I'm thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, they're not going to know this. How many other people are going to know this?’”

Alberta Health Services did not respond to The Gazette's questions about the changes to physiotherapy coverage in time for publication on Tuesday.

About the Author: Jessica Nelson

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