Manitoba inks surgery deals with Thunder Bay, Cleveland, North Dakota

Manitobans who need hip or knee surgery will have the option to go under the knife in the United States and northwestern Ontario on the provincial government’s dime this fall.

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Manitobans who need hip or knee surgery will have the option to go under the knife in the United States and northwestern Ontario on the provincial government’s dime this fall.

Progress report

Work continues on the implementation of a new surgical wait-list information management system, which will optimize surgical resources in Manitoba to increase accessibility to patients.

Work continues on the implementation of a new surgical wait-list information management system, which will optimize surgical resources in Manitoba to increase accessibility to patients.
A new orthopedic surgeon has been hired to support the addition of a fifth operating room at Concordia Hospital. The task force expects the new OR to open in March 2023.
A dashboard with monthly updates on median wait times, the number of people on wait lists, and completed procedures will be launched in September. The dashboard will track cardiac surgery, cataract surgery, orthopedics (hips and knees), CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, bone densitometry, and myocardial perfusion.

Dr. Peter MacDonald, chair of the province’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force steering committee, said eligible patients can put their name forward for surgery at Big Thunder Orthopedic Associates in northwestern Ontario; Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D.; and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I know that hundreds of Manitobans are waiting for hip or knee replacement as a result of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” MacDonald said. “People will begin to seek care at these locations in coming weeks and once projects are fully implemented, they will provide relief to hundreds of Manitobans.”

The task force said the volume of hip and knee surgeries performed at the three clinics will start small but grow incrementally to a combined total of 750 patients annually by 2024.

The agreements are expected to run for two to three years, depending on demand as the province increases its own surgical capacity. The first patients will head out of province this month.

In the first six months of this year, 2,250 hip and knee surgeries were performed in Manitoba, which is near pre-pandemic levels, the task force said. However, hip and knee patients spend more time on waiting lists due to the backlog of procedures.

This will be the first time patients can volunteer for out-of-province surgery, MacDonald said. Patients will also be contacted by their health-care provider if they are a match for the program.

JESSICA LEE / FREE PRESS FILES

Dr. Peter MacDonald, chairman of the diagnostic and surgical recovery task force steering committee, said the contracts are an interim measure.

“Members of the task force team will help guide them through the process, including co-ordination with their health care provider in Manitoba and their surgical site of the destination,” he said.

In addition to all medical costs, patients will have transportation and accommodation expenses covered if they choose to receive surgery at one of the partner clinics, task force provincial director David Matear said. A stipend for food may also be offered.

“What we’re trying to do, and we’re working with government to make sure that we move towards that, is not disadvantaging patients taking up the opportunity to seek care out of province,” Matear said.

The province will get a “significant discount” on services provided by clinics in both Cleveland and Fargo and will not cost “anywhere near” the ticket price for those surgeries, Matear said.

However, the task force director could not say how much more the government will spend on the surgeries compared to performing them in province.

JESSICA LEE / FREE PRESS FILES

“What we’re trying to do, and we’re working with government to make sure that we move towards that, is not disadvantaging patients taking up the opportunity to seek care out of province,” David Matear said.

Over the past nine weeks, the volume of patients passing through local operating rooms was 20 per cent higher compared to a normal summer baseline, said Dr. Ed Buchel, task force surgical lead.

Typically, surgical volumes dip to about 60 and 80 per cent of capacity to accommodate summer holidays for staff. The task force wants to see that rise to 100 per cent through incremental increases over the next couple of years.

Nearly all surgical sites in Winnipeg are expected to operate at pre-pandemic capacity this fall, Buchel said. A predicted shortage of anesthesiologists, which would have led to about 300 cancelled procedures in September, has also been addressed, he noted.

“There are many ways to reallocate health care providers creatively within the system and we have to give significant credit to our anesthesia colleagues who have gone above and beyond to take away vacation time, travel time, to make this work,” Buchel said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES

The system-wide shortage of health care providers and current stop-gaps are not sustainable, Dr. Ed Buchel said.

The system-wide shortage of health care providers and current stop-gaps are not sustainable, he said.

“People will continue to step up, short term,” he said. “Short term is a few months to maybe a year.”

Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Candace Bradshaw said adding surgical and diagnostic capacity will be a challenge given the major shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in the province.

“Out-of-province surgeries can offer short-term help, but a longer-term solution in Manitoba is needed to clear the massive backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic,” Bradshaw said in a statement.

“Out-of-province surgeries can offer short-term help, but a longer-term solution in Manitoba is needed to clear the massive backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic.” – Dr. Candace Bradshaw

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the Tory government should consider alternatives to sending patients out of province for surgery.

“People are still waiting too long to get a surgery in Manitoba. So given the amount of runway that the PCs have had on this, it’s disappointing to hear that their answer is still highway medicine, meaning sending people out of province, and in some cases out of the country to get the services that they need,” the NDP leader said.

Kinew said Manitobans should be concerned about the cost of out-of-province treatment.

“It’s a less efficient measure that’s going to be more expensive,” he said.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

History

Updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 4:06 PM CDT: Updates story with quotes from Doctors Manitoba and Wab Kinew

Updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 7:04 PM CDT: Fixed bylines

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