A man from Winnipeg with a newly repaired heart is encouraged that the province could send some patients out of the province for elective surgery amid the amazing backlog in Manitoba.
He just hopes these people don’t have thousands of dollars out of their pockets like him.
The province paid for the surgery, but retirees Jacques Dupont, 62, and wife Paulette Carriere-Dupont, 64, had about $ 5,500 in travel and accommodation expenses after the province had elective heart surgery for him in Ontario this fall had arranged.
“You should pay for it,” said Dupont. “I knew if I waited, I might not make it. It’s almost like a ticking time bomb. “
On Wednesday, some long-awaited details were released by a task force charged with breaking down an estimated 156,000 surgeries, procedures and diagnostic tests backlog.
Health Secretary Audrey Gordon said the team would Explore options that could result in Manitoba sending more patients elsewhere for care. It is not yet clear when this could begin, or whether Manitoba will bear some or all of the expenses.
The Duponts fear that patients may leave part of the tab unchanged.
In recent years, doctors have discovered that Dupont had a leaking heart valve. Usually quite active, his breathing became harder earlier this year.
After an echocardiogram in August, Dupont learned that he needed an operation. His heart doctor asked if he was ready to go to the Ottawa Cardiac Institute amid long waits in Manitoba, Dupont said.
Stress of waiting
Days before they left, they received a phone call from their doctor saying that the province would handle the operation, but no travel or accommodation expenses.
“I said, ‘You know what? I go.’ Because I was so stressed … the waiting, the waiting. “
The couple arrived in Ottawa on October 31st. The plan was a less invasive operation to repair the mitral valve.
A provincial spokesman said Manitoba will pay travel and surgery costs for procedures not performed here if a specialist recommends sending a patient out of the province. The limited surgery Dupont received will be performed at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Shared Health confirms.
When the surgeons at the Ottawa Cardiac Institute took a closer look, they found that Dupont needed open-heart surgery.
The procedure was successful. The couple returned to Winnipeg late last month after spending about three weeks in Ottawa.
Dupont feels happy. He’s also worried about thousands of Manitobans standing on waiting lists with no end in sight.
“I really sympathize with them because it’s not fair,” he said. “This is a matter of life and death, and we shouldn’t be messing around with things like that … because we’re trying to save money.”
A provincial spokesman said Manitoba will pay travel expenses for companions, but not others, if a specialist determines it is necessary for a person to accompany a patient.
Outside the provinces limited solutions: CMA
The Canadian Medical Association recently commissioned a report that found surgical debris are a major Canadian problem that the pandemic is exacerbating.
“Any province hoping another province will step in and help them clear their backlog in a meaningful way may need to reconsider … especially considering there are over 100,000 patients waiting,” said Dr. Katharine Smart, President of the CMA.
The same goes for sending patients to the USA – that is also not a long-term solution and the costs would be astronomical, says Smart.
Dupont’s case highlights the problems in “our perceived universal health system when the actual cost of care is downloaded onto the patient,” said Smart.
All of this points to a broader existing problem that governments are not investing enough in their health systems and workers, she said.
“In Canada, patients actually pay a much larger percentage of their health care costs than in other similar countries,” she said. “Much of the care people need is, in fact, not universal.”
“It seems unfair”
As someone concerned with waiting times, access to surgery, and surgical outcomes, Jason Sutherland said he was glad Manitoba made this a “political imperative” by creating a task force.
He does not believe that patients have to pay for travel, accommodation and ancillary expenses out of their own pocket, as Dupont did.
“Why shouldn’t the government pay for medical supplies if they are not available in Manitoba, if they wait too long, or if they may unduly endanger the patient’s health?” said Sutherland, a professor at the Center for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia School of Medicine.
“It seems unfair.”
If the task force decides to send patients elsewhere, Sutherland hopes it will consider how additional costs could create financial barriers and exacerbate existing health inequalities.
Dupont-Carriere says the costs incurred are worrying.
“Some people I can just see where they’d have to cancel because they can’t afford it, and that’s absolutely horrible,” she said. “The province is serious about mental health? Then get on your way, get the money and don’t cancel. “
She hopes Manitoba will set firm goals for clearing all backlogs and specific goals for sending patients out of the province.
“With no timeframe, it’s just another promise,” she said.