Manitoba set to sign another deal with a U.S. clinic to whittle waiting list

Manitoba is on the verge of signing another agreement with a U.S. health-care provider to ease the strain on its clogged waiting lists.

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Manitoba is on the verge of signing another agreement with a U.S. health-care provider to ease the strain on its clogged waiting lists.

The latest proposal would allow Manitobans who need an angiogram to diagnose a heart problem to get care from the Mayo Clinic.

A provincial spokesperson confirmed Wednesday work is underway to send some patients to the renowned, non-profit clinic.

Patients waiting for a cardiac catheterization diagnostic procedure, known as an angiogram, could be eligible for the program, according to a Twitter post by the Manitoba government that was published Tuesday afternoon.

In a surprise move, the tweet was deleted not long after it appeared. The province told the Free Press it had not formally announced the agreement so the post was taken down.

“A tweet about this agreement was issued prematurely and in error, and has since been deleted,” the spokesperson said. “The diagnostic and surgical recovery task force can confirm work is underway and information will be formally released about the work, including who will be eligible, as soon as possible.

“The province apologizes for the error.”

The Mayo Clinic offers the diagnostic procedure to adults through its Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory located at campuses in Rochester, Minn., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla.

A request for comment from Mayo Clinic was not returned Wednesday. The province did not offer additional information about its agreement or which clinic locations would care for Manitobans.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation describes an angiogram as a test that takes an X-ray image of coronary arteries and the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Typically, a patient is given local anesthetic and a catheter is guided through a vein near the heart which then releases a dye into the bloodstream.

Cardiac catheterization is normally used in combination with an angiogram and can be used to evaluate heart valves and blood supply, according to the foundation. Bed rest is required for four to six hours and an overnight stay in a hospital may also be ordered.

A press secretary for Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the task force is working on more partnerships to eliminate backlogs that have piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agreement with the Mayo Clinic will be the first out-of-province diagnostic service initiated by the task force.

The number of people waiting for angiograms or cardiac catheterization was not immediately available.

The task force has signed agreements with Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, to offer Manitobans spine, hip, and knee surgeries. All expenses are covered by the government.

Patients who travelled to the U.S. for surgery have given positive reviews, Gordon’s press secretary said.

“We want to ensure Manitobans the best care possible as we move closer to eliminating the backlog, and we encourage more Manitobans to inquire about these partnerships.”

According to the task force, 140 people had received surgery out-of-province as of mid-December, including in Dryden and Kenora, in Ontario, under an agreement with Big Thunder Orthopedic Associates. Another 140 were in the queue for surgery outside Manitoba, including 50 waiting for spine surgery.

“We want to ensure Manitobans the best care possible as we move closer to eliminating the backlog, and we encourage more Manitobans to inquire about these partnerships.”–Health Minister Audrey Gordon’s press secretary

Three-hundred Manitobans are expected to receive surgery out-of-province in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.

Doctors Manitoba, a physician lobby group and professional association, has called on the province to direct more resources to the local health system to eliminate the backlogs. Tests and surgeries provided in the province are more convenient and offer better continuity of care, the group argues.

“Hearing about another contract to send patients out of province for medical care really evokes mixed emotions for physicians,” spokesman Keir Johnson said. “While any action to get patients care sooner is welcome news, we’re concerned about the growing number of contracts for care in other provinces or in the U.S. instead of focusing on building up capacity right here in Manitoba.”

The Progressive Conservative government has emphasized out-of-province procedures are a short-term measure — only until the wait-lists return to pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, the government says it is adding capacity in the public system.

The Tories have provided the task force $160 million to work with since it was struck in late 2021. The province has also spent $50 million to increase surgical capacity at Health Sciences Centre by 25 per cent over a six-year window and announced a $200-million health human resources action plan.

In 2021, 13,000 procedures were contracted out to private, public, and third-party health providers and another 20,000 were on the books.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont questioned why contracts to send Manitobans stateside are still being signed more than a year after the task force was launched.

“We need a plan to rebuild in Manitoba and that doesn’t seem to be on offer. We don’t need more Band-Aids,” Lamont said.

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said the PCs are trying to normalize private health care delivery, particularly in the United States. “That shouldn’t be normalized. It increases the risks… it increases the costs associated with health care and weakens health care here at home,” Asagwara said.

Asagwara stopped short of saying out-of-province programs are without merit.

The NDP MLA said the false start on Twitter shows the government is disorganized.

“It’s a bad approach,” Asagwara said.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.


Updated on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 8:22 PM CST: Edits sentence

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