The Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force is finding innovative solutions to address backlogs in health care resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, by building capacity in Manitoba, with a request for supply arrangement (RFSA) with private and public care providers in Manitoba, and by implementing safe, out-of-province care options for some procedures.

Combined with strategic investments in staffing and health care infrastructure, these measures will continue to ensure that Manitobans have timely access to the care they need.

NEW: The Manitoba government is seeking proposals from qualified service delivery organizations and service providers to help address backlogs in diagnostic procedures.

The deadline for proposals is August 12.

Diagnostic Services

Throughout the pandemic response, the health care system adapted to ensure people continued to have timely access to cancer diagnosis and treatment without delay. In Manitoba, the volume of cancer services being provided, including diagnostics, care planning and treatment, are at or above pre-pandemic levels.

Colon Cancer Screening
The Manitoba government announced a shift to Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) screening as the initial diagnostic tool used for some patients at lower risk for colorectal cancer, rather than a colonoscopy. FIT screening is less invasive, provides accurate results and helps to reduce the need for colonoscopies and other demands on operating room space. This approach will help to reduce the number of follow-up colonoscopies required by Manitoba patients by at least 1,000 annually, once fully implemented. FIT screening has now been implemented in all 5 regional health authorities, diverting 508 cases from the waitlist, and resulting in an estimated cost saving of more than $444,500.

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Surgical Services

Out Of Province Medical Referrals
A program for spine surgeries at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota is well underway. This initiative is addressing the waitlist of eligible patients waiting for spinal surgery by providing them with the option to receive care out of province, as Manitoba builds its own capacity at home. Eligible individuals are referred by their specialist, typically for conditions such as spinal stenosis and chronic degenerative disc disease. To date, 34 individuals have had surgery at Sanford and another 9 patients are booked, with many more being prepared.

Non-Surgical Interventions
More than 900 Manitobans are waiting an assessment from the Winnipeg Spine Assessment Clinic. About 90 per cent of patients referred to the Spine Assessment Clinic can be helped through physiotherapy, chiropractic care or other pain management solutions, rather than spinal surgery. In April 2022, the province announced an investment in four new physical therapists at the Spine Assessment Clinic. This project is currently being implemented, with a further update to be provided as soon as possible.

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Request for Supply Arrangement (RFSA)

Beginning in the summer of 2020, the province began addressing backlogs caused by COVID-19 through a request for supply arrangement (RFSA) with private and public care providers in Manitoba. Last year, this resulted in nearly 8,000 procedures more than the health care system's usual capacity, with a related investment of more than $7.1 million. This included cataract surgery, echocardiography, hernia surgery, pediatric dental surgery, spine surgery and endoscopy.

The first intake of the surgical RFSA has now closed, and 20,000 additional cases will be contracted through this process. In comparison, over the past 2 fiscal years RFSA contracts completed a combined total of 13,661 cases. The diagnostic RFSA intake has launched July 18 and will be open until August 12, 2022. In September, we will begin a quarterly RFSA intake process. This will mean continual contracting of cases in a variety of services, to continue tackling surgical and diagnostic backlogs.

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