Surgery plan rankles patients who paid to go under the knife

The Progressive Conservative government refuses to commit to reimburse Manitobans who paid for their own surgeries outside the province, despite announcing it would cover the cost of sending hundreds of patients to the U.S. and Ontario for hip and knee procedures.

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The Progressive Conservative government refuses to commit to reimburse Manitobans who paid for their own surgeries outside the province, despite announcing it would cover the cost of sending hundreds of patients to the U.S. and Ontario for hip and knee procedures.

“That is under consideration and discussion at this time,” Health Minister Audrey Gordon said when asked at an unrelated news conference in her Southdale constituency Thursday.

On Wednesday, the province’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force steering committee announced that starting this fall, the government will pay for Manitobans who need hip or knee surgery to go to the U.S. or Ontario for the procedures. Patients will have transportation and accommodation expenses covered and a stipend for food may also be offered.

“It’s a bit of rubbing salt in the wounds,” said Andy Maxwell, who is able to water ski this summer after paying $56,000 to get both of his hips replaced at a private Calgary clinic last year.

“When they say ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to send people out of province now and it will cost way more than Manitoba Health would’ve been able to do it for, and we’re going to cover their travel and we’re going to give them accommodation and meals in some cases’, you just go, ‘Well aren’t I a Manitoban who’s paid in (to the health care system) for over 40 years? How come I’m the black sheep?’”

”Well aren’t I a Manitoban who’s paid in (to the health care system) for over 40 years? How come I’m the black sheep?” – Andy Maxwell

The 73-year-old said he’s “lucky” he had retirement savings to dig into, but knows other people who are much younger who’ve had to take out loans to get the surgery to be able to function.

“I think what would be more than fair would be to be compensated,” said Maxwell.

He submitted a claim to the province for just the surgery and was reimbursed $2,448.06 for one hip. He wasn’t expecting the full amount, or to have his travel expenses covered, but he would’ve expected the province to pay what it costs to perform the surgery in Manitoba.

“They’ve already budgeted for so many hips and knees and cataracts each year,” Maxwell said.

He has no regrets about getting the surgeries in May and September and said he couldn’t have endured the excruciating pain by waiting till this fall for the government to offer out-of-province procedures.

“I was able to stay fit and active, cross-country skiing from November on and now skiing the slalom water ski course daily,” he said.

SUPPLIED

“It’s a bit of rubbing salt in the wounds,” said Andy Maxwell, who is able to water ski this summer after paying $56,000 to get both of his hips replaced at a private Calgary clinic last year.

In March, Dez Daniels had her hip replaced in Mexico out of desperation, as her physical and mental health were “crumbling.”

“It had gotten to the point where I could barely walk,” the former radio announcer and current Great Tastes of Manitoba host said Thursday. There was no indication of when she could get a new hip or where she was on the province’s wait list.

“Based on that, we have to make a decision for the best of our health,” she said. “I’m super grateful I was in the position to have it done, but I know there’s many Manitobans who were not.”

She applied to the province for reimbursement but was rejected.

“I think I am entitled to that money. I paid into it,” she said of the public health care system. Daniels figures her $18,400 bill from having the procedure done in Mexico is less than what the surgery would’ve cost in Manitoba.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dez Daniels figures her $18,400 bill from having the procedure done in Mexico is less than what the surgery would’ve cost in Manitoba.

“The bottom line is that they would’ve allocated funds for me to have the surgery had I had it done in Manitoba, anyway,” she said.

Daniels said she’s happy for those who will get the out-of-province surgeries and expenses covered by the province, but doubts she will ever be reimbursed.

“For them to do what I consider — and what I think most Manitobans would consider to be the right thing — I’m certainly not expecting that. We’ll see. Maybe they’ll surprise me,” she laughed.

Task force provincial director David Matear was asked at Wednesday’s media briefing if the task force would consider reimbursing Manitobans who paid for their own out-of-province hip and knee surgery during the pandemic period, now that the provincial government is paying to do so.

“(The) government will have to determine whether they’re prepared to move on that at all,” he said.

On Thursday, Gordon said she didn’t know when a decision would be made.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the federal Canada Health Act lays out some of the parameters of “what we can and cannot pay for”.

“This is still before us and no decision has been made,” she said. The minister said the federal Canada Health Act lays out some of the parameters of “what we can and cannot pay for,” she said.

“It will take some time to work with that level of government and to bring back a recommendation to the ministerial working group for the diagnostic and surgical recovery task force,” Gordon said.

“Our government will leave no stone unturned in terms of ensuring that Manitobans receive the care that they need. When they do have to go outside the province, we will certainly look at what may be possible,” she said.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the suffering and desperation that compelled Manitobans to pay for their own surgeries is the result of the PC government’s austerity measures.

“The province has to recognize that this a testament to the failure of the PC approach when it comes to health care,” Kinew said.

“The province has to recognize that this a testament to the failure of the PC approach when it comes to health care.” – NDP Leader Wab Kinew

“The fact that Manitobans have been driven to desperate measures is because of the cuts we saw in the health care system going back to Mr. Pallister’s time and continuing under Premier (Heather) Stefanson.”

Manitoba Liberals have been calling on the PC government to reimburse patients such as Maxwell and Daniels since December.

They sent a letter Dec. 14 to Premier Heather Stefanson and Gordon about Jean Dupont, who, after waiting for nearly two years, flew to Ottawa with his wife, received a heart procedure and spent three weeks recovering in a university dorm.

Dupont had to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket because the PCs waited nearly two years to start addressing one of the worst surgical backlogs in the country, the Liberals said in a statement in January. They said the premier and health minister didn’t respond to the letter.

— With file from Danielle DaSilva

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Dez Daniels said she's happy for those who will get the out-of-province surgeries and expenses covered by the province, but doubts she will ever be reimbursed. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)
Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

History

Updated on Thursday, August 25, 2022 10:17 PM CDT: Tweaks headline

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