Up to 750 Manitobans could get hip, knee surgeries out-of-province under new agreements

Hundreds of Manitobans waiting for hip and knee replacement surgeries could get care out-of-province, after the government signed three new agreements with providers in Ontario, North Dakota and Ohio.

The province’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force announced the agreements could result in up to 750 people getting surgeries at Big Thunder Orthopedic Associates in northwestern Ontario, Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“These agreements are an important measure to help us build capacity and provide care for people that have been waiting too long for these surgeries,” said Dr. Peter MacDonald, chair of the task force steering committee.

Patients will be able to declare whether they are interested in going out of province for their surgery.

“This will ensure that we have the right patients and the correct volume of patients that we need to address the wait lists in a meaningful way,” MacDonald said.

Eligibility criteria, as well as information about how to apply, will be posted on the task force’s website.

A pilot project with Big Thunder Orthopedic Associates will start at the end of this month, beginning with six patients. It will expand to as many as 20 to 30 patients a month, or 300 procedures per year, at locations in Dryden, Fort Frances and Kenora.

An expansion of an earlier agreement with Sanford Health in North Dakota, which the province says has provided 28 spinal surgeries in recent months, could see that clinic offer up to 125 hip or knee surgeries this year, and as many as 250 in 2023-24.

In a new agreement, Cleveland Clinic will do as many as 200 procedures per year.

The agreements are a temporary measure, while the province tries to deal with a backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force said.

“We recognize that these out-of-province agreements will be a short-term measure,” said MacDonald.

“It’s not a permanent solution, but an interim measure, until more capacity can be built in Manitoba’s health-care system over the long term.”

Manitoba will cover medical costs, as well as transportation and accommodation. The province may cover food as well.

The province also says it will now able to conduct some surgeries in September that it thought would have to be cancelled because of a shortage of anesthesiologists. The province says it found ways to do more surgeries by rearranging vacations, and cutting back on research and academic work. 

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