Patient’s patience not a virtue: he waited years for spinal surgery assigned to MD who left Manitoba


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Jeff Delaney put his faith in Manitoba’s health-care system.

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Jeff Delaney put his faith in Manitoba’s health-care system.

Now he’s advising others not to make the same mistake, lest they fall through the cracks.

Delaney, 67, had been waiting patiently for nearly five years to get spinal surgery for problems that, ultimately, sent him to the ER on Dec. 9.

He was admitted and placed on standby — unable to eat during the day in case a surgery slot opened — for 13 days, finally undergoing the procedure on Dec. 22.

The active retiree was diagnosed and referred to a spinal surgeon in 2018, but never heard back. When he contacted the clinic four years later, he learned his case had been assigned to a doctor who’d since left the province.

Delaney said he doesn’t know how long he’d have waited for surgery if his worsening symptoms hadn’t prompted him to go to the ER.

“I recognize that the last thing the system wants is for people to flood the ERs… but when you’re not being treated in a reasonable fashion, that’s the only option, the best option for you personally,” he told the Free Press Tuesday.

Although he’s grateful to individual health-care professionals for the care he did receive, he still wonders if the $56,000 plus travel expenses it would have cost to have his surgery in Germany would have been worth avoiding years of pain.

“Did I let myself down or did the system let me down?” he said.

In a letter detailing his experience that he submitted to the premier’s office and to the Winnipeg Spine Program, he offered advice to other patients to avoid getting lost in the shuffle. Do not count on your doctors or specialists to contact you for treatment, he wrote.

“Presenting yourself to the ER and being admitted may create an even bigger backlog of patients than we already have, however, patiently waiting for treatment that may never come is not an effective alternative.”

Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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