Send our patients to the US? Canadian Spine Society says no


The Canadian Spine Society wants Manitoba Shared Health to scrap plans to send up to 300 patients to Sanford Health Fargo (N.D.) for spine surgery, CBC reported Jan. 21.

Manitoba Shared Health hopes to finalize a deal that would send patients who have waited more than a year for spine surgery to Sanford. The transfer of patients aims to reduce the backlog of spine surgeries in Manitoba.

However, the Canadian Spine Society, which represents 192 surgeons, believes the plan would redirect "badly needed money that could be applied to improving access within the province," the society's director, Hamilton Hall, MD, and president, Scott Paquette, MD, said in Jan. 20 letter.

The surgeons, citing research from colleagues in Saskatchewan, said that 1,000 spine surgeries could be performed in Canada at the same cost as 300 in the U.S. However, Peter MacDonald, MD, chair of Manitoba's surgery backlog task force, poked holes in this claim, arguing that Medicare rates for spine surgeries in North Dakota are competitive, and compensation rates for surgeons would ensure Manitoba patients would receive high-quality care, according to CBC.

The plan has caused a significant rift among Canadian surgeons as Manitoba Shared Health and Sanford Health Fargo work on finalizing a deal.

Manitoba Shared Health said initially that the first spine patients would have procedures in Fargo by the end of January, but walked back that claim a day later.

In a statement provided to Becker's Spine Review on Jan. 20, Brittany Sachdeva, vice president of operations at Sanford Health Fargo, said discussions have been ongoing "for some time and while we do not have a signed agreement at this point, we are looking forward to finalizing it in the near future."

The health system said that it would only accept patients from Manitoba "at a mutually agreed upon time as the pandemic and our capacity allows."

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