The Manitoba government continues to implement initiatives that will improve timely access to health care through the work of the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force, including a plan to increase orthopedic surgeries at Concordia Hospital to support Manitobans who need hip and knee surgeries, Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced today.
“The task force is leading critical work in partnership with Manitoba’s health-care leaders to find solutions that will help to address the delays in surgeries and procedures caused by the demands of the pandemic,” said Gordon. “There are thousands of Manitobans whose quality of life is profoundly affected by this work, which is why it is critical we continue to make progress and find solutions.”
Concordia Hospital Expansion
Concordia Hospital is Manitoba’s leading site for joint replacement surgeries, including hip and knee, and a significant amount of patients have been affected as staff and other resources were focused on the pandemic response. The province will support the expansion of the orthopedic surgery program to add a fifth operating room, which includes recruiting an orthopedic surgeon, adding four inpatient beds and investing in anesthesia staff. These improvements are expected to be in place by the end of the year and will increase capacity by up to 1,000 surgeries per year, noted Gordon.
“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to identify and build solutions in partnership with Manitoba’s health-care leaders, patient representatives and many other partners who are focused on helping connect people with life-improving procedures sooner,” said Dr. Peter MacDonald, chair of the task force’s steering committee. “As an orthopedic surgeon, I know the profound benefits that hip and knee surgeries can have on a person’s quality of life and overall health, so that is a particularly meaningful initiative to see moving forward.”
The Concordia Foundation will be leading fundraising efforts to support the hospital renovations and improvements required to increase joint-replacement surgery capacity.
“This announcement today brings hope to so many people by significantly increasing joint-replacement surgery capacity at Concordia Hospital and serving as a legacy project that will benefit patients for years to come,” said Roger Gripp, board chair, Concordia Foundation. "Foundation donors and the Concordia orthopedic surgical team consistently rise to the occasion to make tangible improvements in the lives of people waiting for surgical relief from debilitating pain. This is a significant investment in our community that demonstrates our purpose and values, of putting patients first."
Spine Assessment Improvements
The minister noted the province is also putting new resources to improve access to care for about 900 Manitobans living with back pain who are currently waiting for an assessment by the Spine Assessment Clinic. The province will invest $400,000 in the clinic to increase the number of assessments completed in order to connect these patients with a treatment or care plan sooner, by adding four new physical therapists which will help provide more on-site, virtual and travel-based assessment services. About 90 per cent of patients referred to the assessment clinic can be helped through treatments other than surgery such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care or other pain management solutions.
It is expected these clinic resources will be in place in the coming months, with a goal of reducing the wait list spine assessment for these patients by next spring, noted the minister. Without these additional investments, it is estimated the wait list of patients awaiting assessment and related care could nearly quadruple over that period.
Mobile CT and MRI Unit Purchase
The province is also moving forward with the purchase and installation of a new mobile CT unit and two new mobile MRI unit. These will be placed in Winnipeg to improve outpatient access and reduce wait times for these diagnostic procedures. Once fully operational, the units will be able to deliver more than 11,600 CT scans and 7,200 MRIs annually.
Cataract Surgery Increases
The province is expanding services at Misericordia’s cataract program and issued a request for supply agreement to be run concurrently to increase baseline capacity within the province.
Spine Surgeries (North Dakota)
The pilot project with Sanford Health in North Dakota is now underway. Nine Manitobans have received spinal surgery to date with additional surgeries scheduled for the coming weeks. This initiative is co-ordinated through Manitoba’s out-of-province medical referral program and helps to reduce the wait time for Manitobans who choose to travel, improving their quality of life as the province increases its capacity, noted the minister.
Health System Updates
The task force is also developing strategies to improve access and reduce wait times for other key procedures, with additional updates expected in the coming weeks.
Throughout the health-care system, staff that was deployed to support the COVID-19 response continue to return to previous sites and responsibilities. There are currently 146 reassigned or redeployed staff, which is the lowest number since the peak of the third wave in July 2021 and which has been declining weekly since early February.
This gradual transition helps to ensure the ongoing care needs of COVID-19 patients are met, while also supporting a return to normal capacity for many surgical and diagnostic procedures, the minister noted. Endoscopy services and bariatric surgery were fully restored to pre-pandemic levels as of last week.
The Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force was established in December 2021 to reduce waitlists and support access to care. The province committed $50 million to begin addressing the surgical and diagnostic backlog in Budget 2021. As part of the investments made in Budget 2021, the province entered into agreements with diagnostic imaging, public and private surgery service providers, resulting in thousands of procedures including cataract surgery, echocardiography, hernia surgery, pediatric dental surgery, spine surgery and endoscopy.
For more information about the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force, visit www.manitoba.ca/DSrecovery.