US-Canada spine surgery pilot criticized for 'slow start'

Practice Management

Five patients from the Canadian province of Manitoba have been sent to have spine surgery at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, N.D., but the initiative is moving too slow for some Canadian critics, the Winnipeg Sun reported March 14. 

The pilot program is designed to help reduce the backlog of surgeries in Manitoba, which has more than 161,000 people waiting for procedures, according to the report. Spine patients who have been waiting a year or more for surgery are eligible, with Sanford initially identifying up to 300 spine patients who were healthy enough to travel to Fargo.

But critics of the program, first announced in January, have said that it is moving too slow. 

"We've got tens of thousands of Manitobans, waiting in pain to hear that there's a pilot program for a number of individuals in the single digits," said Wab Kinew, leader of the New Democratic Party of Manitoba, according to the Winnipeg Sun. "That's a very slow start. We know that people are waiting in pain, people want to see answers."

The Canadian Spine Society also criticized the program in a Jan. 20 letter, arguing that it would redirect "badly needed money that could be applied to improving access within the province."

Sanford Health said it will make a decision on its next steps after the pilot program is completed.

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