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Manitoba issues request for proposals to fix surgery backlog amid coronavirus

Reducing a surgery backlog
The Manitoba government is issuing a request for proposals — from both private and public facilities — to start completing elective surgeries postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marney Blunt reports.

The Manitoba government is issuing a request for proposals — from both private and public facilities — to start completing elective surgeries postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Thursday applicants are being asked to give details on how they plan to address priority surgical and diagnostic areas by creating additional capacity in the system.

Read more: Coronavirus: Additional case reported, surgical activities to increase over next week

Friesen said the RFP is for same-day procedures that wouldn’t require admission, and the proposals must be able to be delivered starting Aug. 1.

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“The Manitoba government already works with a number of providers outside the public system to provide services, including cataract surgeries, and other surgical and diagnostic procedures,” said Friesen in a release.

“This government believes Manitobans deserve better health care, sooner. This initiative demonstrates that we are committed to exploring all available options to get surgeries and procedures rescheduled so that Manitobans have access to the care they need now, while the risk of COVID-19 is lower.”

The government said priority areas include:

  • pediatric dental surgeries;
  • pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeries;
  • minor orthopedic procedures;
  • ophthalmology surgery;
  • outpatient spine procedures; and
  • outpatient urology surgeries.

Elective surgeries were put on pause in Manitoba in late March in order to make sure there was space to respond to an outbreak of the virus.

That meant surgical volumes fell by roughly 7,000 procedures, the province said Thursday.

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Elective surgeries were allowed again in late April and the province said surgical volumes reached 90 per cent of normal levels by early last month.

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But Friesen said Thursday there are still roughly 5,500 people waiting to have their surgery rescheduled.

Read more: COVID-19 pandemic to affect nearly 400,000 elective surgeries across Canada by mid-June: study

“COVID-19 placed a lot of people’s procedures on hold and it has been a difficult time while they wait for their surgery to be rescheduled,” Friesen said.

“This government is looking for innovative solutions to address the backlog of surgeries created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we believe this plan will get people the care they need, as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

‘Crony capitalism’

The plan was quickly panned by both the Manitoba Liberal Party and the provincial NDP.

Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont accused the Pallister Government of giving “private companies the opportunity to profiteer off a crisis.

“Having spent four years starving the public health system of funds, the PCs are using this crisis to hand out contracts to the private sector instead of shoring up public health care,” Lamont said.

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“It is crony capitalism that seeks to line investors’ pockets while taking money out of the public system.”

On Twitter Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said a strong universal health care system is “key to suppressing COVID-19.”

“The Pallister PC government’s move to privatize surgeries under the cover of the pandemic is just wrong,” Kinew said in a tweet.

Friesen said the proposals must meet all legislative, regulatory, and standards requirements including regulatory body requirements for health providers, and not affect existing service delivery capacity in the public system.

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On Canada Day, there were no new cases of the novel coronavirus announced.

The total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases in the province was at 325.

Read more: No new cases of COVID-19 identified in Manitoba on Canada Day

As of Wednesday, there were 18 identified active cases in the province and 300 people have recovered.

The number of people who have died remains at seven.

–With files from Diana Foxall