Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New joint funding for unit to boost medical research

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You've suffered some type of trauma or just had surgery and you've lost a lot of blood.

Up until last year, Winnipeg doctors would have stuck an IV into your arm and pumped a blood-volume expander with hydroxyethyl starch (HES) in it.

Now doctors put another solution into your body after researchers at the University of Manitoba found critically ill patients had a higher chance of dying if HES was used.

It's just one research project that has already yielded health benefits across the country because of an injection of $22.4 million in funding from the federal and Manitoba governments.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose and her provincial counterpart Erin Selby announced Friday each government will contribute $11.2 million over five years to create a Manitoba Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) unit.

The unit, which will facilitate research by identifying and addressing the needs of patients, is just one of several being opened up in provinces and territories across the country.

"I believe research and innovation are key to having a sustainable health-care system," said Ambrose at the announcement held in the John Buhler Research Centre in the University of Manitoba's Bannatyne Campus next to Health Sciences Centre.

Ambrose said the research will work to ensure "the right patient receives the right treatment at the right time."

Selby said the unit will show "how research can directly influence the lives and outcomes of patients."

Dr. Terry Klassen, the lead for Manitoba's SUPPORT, said the HES research's conclusion came last year when the province's side of the funding started flowing.

"The researchers (Ryan Zarychanski at the U of M) found after a review that starch, when given to critically ill patients, does more harm than good," Klassen said.

"It can cause renal failure and death. That research changed the system.

"Within minutes, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority withdrew it."

As well, Health Canada announced last summer it recommended all HES solutions no longer be used with critically ill patients with certain health conditions, including patients with sepsis, severe liver disease and some patients with impaired kidney function.

Klassen said SUPPORT in Manitoba is already funding 64 researchers.

"That's with the provincial funding -- now with the federal funding it will help us do more," he said.

Ambrose gave credit for SUPPORT coming to Manitoba because the "University of Manitoba was the first one to jump on this opportunity" across the country.

"Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba showed a lot of leadership... to be frank, we want to do more. We need the buy-in from the provinces."

Selby said another research project will see 3,000 residents in 11 First Nations in Manitoba screened for kidney disease.

"This research will make a difference," she said.

Dr. Alain Beaudet, president of the Canadian Institute of Health Research, said almost $45 million has been given out so far in federal grants for SUPPORT programs across the country.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 A7

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