Patients Susan Robertson and Sandy Van Veluewen Halil, with State MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Dr Sam Martin.

A program piloted at Grafton Base Hospital from September is enabling day-only hip and knee replacements for local patients. In what may be a first for the Australian public hospital system, advanced surgical and anaesthetic techniques and better postoperative pain management have reduced the length of stay for patients having major joint replacements, when clinically safe and appropriate.

Dr Sam Martin, orthopaedic surgeon and program lead, said the pilot program, expected to run for six months, is based on research that suggests patients can have successful outcomes given the right care and support in their own home, without the added stress of a hospital stay.

“There is compelling evidence that for many patients, a day stay joint replacement is safe, with equal or better results compared to a longer hospital stay, in terms of the patient’s return to function,” Dr Martin said.

“We also know that getting moving again soon after surgery is shown to reduce the recovery time for patients. Within 3-4 hours of the surgery, under the care of our physiotherapy team, patients can begin moving and will remain in hospital for at least six hours before they go home.

“This is a significant achievement for a small regional centre like Grafton. This program is really the culmination of an outstanding team effort, from surgeons and anaesthetists, to nursing staff, and allied health staff who support the patients before and after surgery.”

Many aspects contribute to a successful day-stay total joint replacement, including a streamlined preoperative physiotherapy and education program, a focused operating theatre unit, tailored anaesthetic and surgical techniques and nursing by staff skilled in shorter stay surgery.

“Patients will be supported through telehealth and face-to-face specialist care to review pain management and wound recovery, and also have regular physiotherapy sessions in the weeks following their surgery,” said Dan Madden, General Manager Clarence Health Service.

Up on their feet… patients Susan Robertson Halil and Sandy Van Veluewen were the first to receive surgery through the new program.