Doctors advocacy group monitors Manitoba Clinic
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With Manitoba’s largest private medical clinic on financial life support, advocates for the public health-care system are keeping a close eye on the patient and watching for signs of contagion.
“The situation at Manitoba Clinic appears to be part of a much larger issue across the entire province: the shortage of doctors which has reached a record high,” Doctors Manitoba said in a statement Friday.
Manitoba Clinic Holding Co. Ltd., received a court order Wednesday granting it creditor protection. Clinic leadership, however, said this week it will remain business as usual for staff, patients, physicians and other tenants in its Winnipeg building (790 Sherbrook St.).
Court documents link its financial challenges to its failure to recruit a full complement of doctors amid physician departures, and say 90 per cent of its revenue comes from doctors’ billings to Manitoba Health.
“Doctors Manitoba is concerned about the situation at Manitoba Clinic and monitoring it very closely,” said the organization representing more than 4,000 physicians and medical learners across the province.
Manitoba needs 405 more doctors to reach the national average for physicians per capita, a 13 per cent increase over last year, according to Canadian Institute for Health Information data reviewed by the Manitoba advocacy group.
“The huge and growing physician shortage is clearly affecting both public and private facilities, and this is yet another example of why urgent action is needed from the provincial government to help attract and retain more doctors in Manitoba,” it said.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic “significantly disrupted” services throughout the province, from hospitals to private clinics and small independently-run offices, Doctors Manitoba said.
“Unfortunately, Manitoba is the only province that did not provide targeted support to doctors for increased costs through the pandemic.”
The provincial government said in a statement Thursday it was aware of Manitoba Clinic’s “financial issues” and “engaged in a number of ways to assist the corporation.”
On Friday, the province declined further comment. Manitoba Clinic chief executive officer Keith McConnell did not respond to requests for comment.
The clinic has been losing money since 2018, and by the end of last year, its operating losses totalled more than $8 million, according to its court filing.
Ever since Manitoba Clinic was built, the province has advised it about partnership opportunities with CancerCare Manitoba, numerous foundations, and the University of Manitoba, the government said Thursday.
“Those efforts have been ongoing and could provide some resolutions for challenges to the corporation that owns and operates the clinic,” it stated.
With Manitoba’s shortage of doctors — and most in private practice involving high overhead costs and administration challenges — something’s bound to give, the Manitoba Health Coalition said Friday.
“When you see the Manitoba Clinic in this kind of financial distress, it makes you worry what’s happening in B.C. will happen in Manitoba,” coalition spokesman Thomas Linner said.
On Thursday, B.C.’s Medical Services Commission took Telus Health to court for its subscription-based service, alleging it amounts to illegal extra billing.
Telus Health employs 29 full-time physicians in B.C. through its LifePlus program, with 4,900 patients enrolled. The company pays doctors a daily rate and covers overhead costs.
“While a million British Columbians go without a family doctor and our emergency wards are full of sick children, Telus Health has quietly been charging thousands of dollars per year for access to primary health care,” B.C. Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau said in a news release.
The Manitoba Health Coalition — which advocates for universal public health care and includes labour unions — has been sounding the alarm about the risks of more private-sector involvement in the health-care system.
Meantime, Premier Heather Stefanson has embraced it, in order for Manitobans “to get the health care they need, when they need it.”
More reliance on the private sector to solve doctor and nurse shortages, surgical and diagnostic procedure backlogs and long-term care challenges is not without risk, Linner said Friday.
“This is a dangerous flux time,” he said.
“I think it’s time to start looking at more of a public interest in clinics and more of a role for the public system in expanding primary care, and ensuring we maintain and retain physicians in Manitoba.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Saturday, December 3, 2022 1:41 PM CST: Fixes typo