Diagnosis of hope as recruited doctors on way to join MS clinic
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Waiting for treatment for multiple sclerosis is like running a marathon without knowing where the finish line is, says Victoria Morningstar.
The Goodlands resident was referred to the MS Clinic at the Health Sciences Centre last May after being diagnosed by a neurologist in Brandon. Nine months later, she’s still waiting for an appointment.
“I thought that once I got diagnosed, that was the hard part, and that I’d start treatment and I’d start getting better. That’s not been the case. Now I feel like I have to fight even harder to get some treatment,” she said.
She suffered symptoms for five years before receiving an MS diagnosis. She has limited mobility, walks with a cane and uses a wheelchair on her worst days.
Morningstar said she has considered moving out of Manitoba to access medical care. In speaking to other Manitobans with MS, she has learned many are angry.
“We kind of feel that we’re being ignored.”
However, there is hope: newly recruited doctors are preparing to join the province’s only dedicated MS clinic.
Except for the most urgent cases, the wait time to see an MS specialist is more than a year, but that could soon change.
Three neurologists from Ontario have signed on to work at the clinic. One has already arrived and is completing the required assessments before beginning independent practice next month.
The other two are expected to arrive and start their assessment periods this spring and summer, said Dr. Dan Roberts, who oversees neurology services in Winnipeg.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel. We do have the people coming, and by October of this year, we should be basically fully operational, and then we can start to decrease that wait time,” Roberts said.
He’s in the process of recruiting two additional physicians. When all of the new recruits start work, the clinic will have seven neurologists, three of whom are clinician scientists, and will be able to offer 23 half-day clinic sessions per week to see patients.
Nine months ago, the clinic was losing a neurologist and was in danger of shutting down, Roberts publicly warned. It remained open after general neurologists took time out of their own practices to fill in, and provincial health officials provided a $284,000 boost to keep the clinic afloat.
Roberts said he had been requesting the additional funding for more than a year before he decided to hold his own news conference in May 2022 to warn the clinic was on the verge of collapse.
Wait times have been unnecessarily stretched because the additional funding wasn’t approved earlier, Roberts said.
Shared Health didn’t respond on Tuesday to a request for comment about the MS Clinic.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.