The Manitoba government is aiming to send more patients out of the province for quicker health care.
The province is working on a deal that would give heart patients an opportunity to go elsewhere for treatment, but critics are questioning whether the Progressive Conservative government is serious when it says the option for out-of-province care is temporary.
The new arrangement would send some patients who need an angiogram to get their heart problem diagnosed to the Mayo Clinic in the United States.
The test, which uses X-ray imaging to see the vessels supplying blood to the heart, can be performed at the clinic’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at its campuses in Minnesota, Arizona or Florida.
The provincial government, however, revealed this news by mistake.
Tweet sent accidentally
It sent out a tweet on Tuesday that it quickly deleted, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.
“A tweet about this agreement was issued prematurely and in error, and has since been deleted,” a government spokesperson confirmed on Thursday.
“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 Mayo Clinic declined to answer questions about Manitoba’s plans.
It comes as no surprise the province is looking to send more patients outside its jurisdiction for medical care, as the province already has existing agreements in place and has pledged to consider more partnerships.
In the last year, 143 hip, knee and spinal surgery patients were sent to northwestern Ontario, North Dakota and Ohio.
Manitoba reached the agreements to try to reduce the wait list for those procedures within the province. The government is covering all costs, including travel and accommodations, for eligible people who are willing to travel to get their procedure faster.
The new deal with the Mayo Clinic would be the first diagnostic service the task force, focused on reducing pandemic-era backlogs, is offering outside Manitoba.
More than a year ago, that task force said it would look to transfer patients elsewhere if they weren’t able to get their procedure done in Manitoba in a timely fashion.
The fact those transfers are still happening troubles Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont.
“We’ve known about this emergency for over a year … and these are still new contracts that they’re announcing,” he said.
The province has said it is also working to build up local surgical and diagnostic capacity so Manitobans can be treated quickly without leaving the province in the future.
Uzoma Asagwara, the Opposition NDP’s health critic, argues the government isn’t focusing on fixing the health-care system here fast enough.
“It’s disappointing to see that yet again they’re prioritizing health care in the United States instead of investing and strengthening health care here at home in Manitoba.”
Dozens more surgeries booked
A spokesperson for Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the out-of-province agreements have been met with positive reviews from the patients who chose to take part.
“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.”
In addition to the 143 surgeries already completed, 81 procedures have been booked and 89 more are in process, the province said.
News of the new agreement evokes “mixed emotions” among physicians, Doctors Manitoba 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,” Keir Johnson, spokesperson for the physician advocacy group, said in a statement.