More than 1,000 people have been waiting more than a year for specialist surgery at one hospital.
Numbers climbed after beds on one ward in Morriston Hospital were given to “very high levels” of emergency cases.
Trisha Adams, 55, who has waited nearly 18 months for a hip replacement, said she was “at my wits’ end”.
Swansea Bay health board said: “We appreciate this can be distressing for our patients and we apologise to those facing delays”.
At the end of September, 1,768 orthopaedic and spinal patients were waiting longer than the 36 week-target, with 741 waiting more than 52 weeks, and a list of 1,000 year-long waits across all specialities.
Health officials aim to cut the backlog by transferring hundreds of cases to other health boards and specialist private hospitals.
Trauma and orthopaedic waiting times
Patients in Wales waiting more than 36 weeks
Under referral for treatment times (RTT), there are about 6,400 patients waiting longer than the target. At its worst two years ago, more than 10,000 patients were waiting more than nine months.
Swansea Bay has seen numbers steadily increase after major orthopaedic operations were stopped at Morriston’s ward W – although less complicated surgery is still being done there.
Ms Adams, who lives near Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, has a congenital condition and always knew she would need a hip replacement.
When fluid on her joints started causing her pain, she saw a specialist in Carmarthen in February 2017 who told her she needed the operation within six months to avoid further tissue damage.
She asked for a second opinion and saw another specialist at Morriston – a centre of excellence for the type of surgery she needs – it is now 76 weeks since she first saw her consultant.
“I can’t believe I’m still in this process and not getting anywhere,” she said.
“I’m a pretty healthy person and try to look after myself but because the deterioration of my hip it means I don’t sleep well at night, I put off going to bed because it’s so painful. I’m lucky to get four or five hours sleep at night.”
Ms Adams used to enjoy walking and cycling with her husband Paul, but is now unable to help him renovate buildings at their smallholding.
“If I try to walk too far, it flares up – the pain becomes even worse,” she said.
“It’s like a red hot poker in my leg, it hurts sitting down or standing. I’m on prescription pain killers. But it’s there 24/7, it doesn’t matter how many drugs you take.”
She contacted her MP, who wrote to the health board and got her an appointment with management who told her they were “riding the perfect storm and they had issues with consultants leaving, shortage of theatre and anaesthetists at the time”.
Ms Adams said she was told they would try and get her operation done by July, but she is still waiting.
Her surgery is too complicated to be transferred out of Morriston and had a pre-operation examination in February, but no letter came confirming a surgery date.
“How could they do this? No-one had bothered to write to me, tell me what was going on, no-one had contacted me. I was just left there in limbo.
“My surgeon said ‘I came into this profession to be a surgeon, to make people’s lives better but I can’t see you because they won’t let me’.”
The health board said it had performed 1,200 elective orthopaedic operations at its three hospitals, including 338 at Morriston, in 2019.
But it said due to “very high” numbers of emergency cases and other pressures, Morriston was unable to provide a dedicated orthopaedic facility on ward W.
“This has significantly compromised our ability to offer elective orthopaedic services there,” said chief operating officer Chris White.
“We are doing all we can to re-provide this facility in Morriston as soon as possible and we apologise to patients experiencing delays.”
The health board said between April and August, 240 procedures were transferred to other health boards or specialist private providers and it planned to do a minimum of 606 surgeries this year.
“For more complex procedures, or for those patients with other medical conditions that restricts where they can have surgery, we are looking at further options to provide surgery in a suitable setting,” Mr White added.