Private clinic to charge patients for ultrasound, echocardiogram


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Manitobans awaiting echocardiograms and ultrasounds will be able to skip months-long wait lists in the new year — for a fee.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2017 (1863 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitobans awaiting echocardiograms and ultrasounds will be able to skip months-long wait lists in the new year — for a fee.

Prota Clinic, a private health-care centre in Winnipeg that offers uninsured medical assessments and services, will offer both the test that detects and tracks heart disease and ultrasound imaging to the general public in January.

The clinic will charge $650 for an echocardiogram and $500 for an ultrasound, tests otherwise available for free to Manitobans willing to wait.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dr. Dimitrios Balageorge, co-founder of Prota Clinic, says ‘everyone benefits when wait lists shrink.’

Dr. Dimitrios Balageorge, one of the principal owners and a co-founder of Prota Clinic, said in a press release it’s a “proactive response” to long wait times in the province.

“Everyone benefits when wait lists shrink,” he said.

Prota Clinic, which includes a vein clinic, physiotherapy and laser-treatment services, started providing Manitobans with executive health assessments costing $3,800 in August 2016. Patients will soon be able to get an echocardiogram or ultrasound, even if they haven’t gone through the initial assessment.

“Any testing that’s done out of the executive assessment program is completely done and paid for privately,” said Balageorge, adding the clinic can, however, provide free X-rays for Manitobans through Medicare.

Prota Clinic’s press release claims the clinic’s new offerings will relieve pressure on the province’s “strained health-care system.”

The wait time for an elective echocardiogram scan is around 10 months within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority according to Bronwyn Penner-Holigroski, WRHA senior communications specialist.

Manitoba Health’s latest data shows the average wait for an ultrasound in Winnipeg is almost three months, though the wait can vary from five to 14 weeks, depending on the facility.

“If you look worldwide, the standard acceptable wait time is four to six weeks for either an echocardiogram or an ultrasound, so 10 months for an echocardiogram is excessive,” Balageorge said Tuesday. “I don’t think anyone would think that’s an acceptable standard.”

The orthopedic surgeon said Prota Clinic could decrease public service wait times in Manitoba because those willing to pay will have that option and won’t add to the already long lines.

“You’re not only decreasing, potentially, the wait times, but the government is benefiting in that it’s also costing them less overall because someone’s actually paying for that service,” said Balageorge, adding more people are going to require these services as the population ages.

But there are only so many people who can perform these tests, according to Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP).

“If we have a long wait time in Manitoba for publicly-funded, publicly-delivered service, like echo and or ultrasound, where are the people going to come from in order to fill these private-sector positions?” Moroz said Wednesday.

He said there currently aren’t enough people in the province who are skilled and qualified to do this type of work.

Moroz said he and MAHCP members are always worried about qualifications being watered down so “just about anybody can do a diagnostic test.”

Balageorge said both the technicians and echocardiogram and ultrasound readers at Prota Clinic are all “highly qualified, very experienced and certified in Canada.”

MLA Andrew Swan, NDP health critic, said in a statement Wednesday the province needs Premier Brian Pallister to strengthen the public system for all Manitobans, instead of allowing the privatization of health care.

“We need to ensure that health care is available to everyone, not just those that can afford to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket when they need a scan or a test,” said Swan (Minto), adding reports in other provinces have found privatizing certain services doesn’t reduce wait times.

“It drains valuable, trained staff who could be working for everyone, not just a select few of us.”

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, said universal public health care in the province needs to be invested in and protected.

“Manitoba families deserve nothing less,” she said, adding no one should have to make the decision to put meals on their table over getting a necessary health test, like an ultrasound.

Prota Clinic’s announcement comes just one month after the wait times reduction task force submitted its final report to the provincial government, which recommends actions to shorten emergency care, surgical and diagnostic procedure wait times.

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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