Delays in child's clubfoot treatment have B.C. family considering travel to other province

Six year-old Matthew Robinson loves playing baseball. He plays with a team on Saturdays and often throws a ball around with his older brother.

But when Matthew runs he has a slight limp. His mother, Nicola, explains it’s because “he is not putting his foot flat on the ground.”

Matthew was born with left clubfoot, an abnormality that affects one in every 1,000 babies where the foot is twisted out of shape or position. It is correctable if treated early.

Matthew was fitted with a series of casts when he was a newborn but two years ago he “relapsed.”

“When they (children with clubfoot) have their growth spurts, often their muscles don’t catch up to them growing so his foot starts to turn in a little bit and he starts to walk on the outside of his foot,” Nicola explained. “It was very disheartening.”

His treatment in 2020 initially worked but a year later he relapsed a second time and doctors said he would require surgery.

In January of 2021, Matthew was placed on a waitlist and fitted with a pre-operative cast, “I wanted to take it off and I couldn’t bend my leg,” Matthew told CTV News.

But COVID-19 numbers spiked in the province and the surgery was cancelled. More than a year later, the family is still waiting.

The delay is compounded by the fact that Fraser Health’s only pediatric orthopedic surgeon is about to retire. Parents, including Robinson, said Fraser Health assured them last fall a replacement specialist would be hired.

In a statement to CTV News Saturday, a spokesperson for the health authority confirmed that someone had been hired.

“This individual has signed a contract with us and we expect them to be in place within the coming months,” the statement said.

But Robinson said they’re still in the dark.

“We don’t know who that person is and we don’t know when they’re going to begin (the surgeries),” she said, adding she’s considering taking Matthew to Quebec to have the surgery done in Montreal.

“We’re just waiting to find out if Matthew can go there for his surgery, we do have a referral for BC Children’s but they’re not able to even have a consult until the middle of July,” she said.

Robinson is also critical of the communication from Fraser Health, saying the impacted families haven't received the information they need – even when they ask for it.

“The only response we ever get back from Fraser Health is through the news or through our MLA, but not to any of us directly,” she said.