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The wait times for back surgery in Manitoba are far too long

There is a serious problem with wait times for back surgery in Manitoba and it has become much worse over the past year.  Today I tell you the story of one person. This individual has asked to remain anonymous, but I share this today so that there can be more awareness of this problem, and so that this situation can be addressed.

This individual has needed back surgery (fusion for L1 to L5 vertebrae) for more than three years.   He was seen by his own family physician who then referred him to the Pan Am Pain Clinic.  He was finally seen by his surgeon at the Health Sciences Centre, two years later in October of 2016.  The surgeon who saw him at the Health Sciences Centre agreed that he needed surgery.  At that time, he committed verbally that he expected the surgery would occur in 9-12 months.  It is now more than 14 months later and he is still waiting, and there is still no surgery date in sight.

The doctor seems to be able to get operating room time only for trauma patients who present in the Emergency room and even they languish in a hospital bed for weeks before the surgery is done.

The costs to the system over the last seven years have been horrendous.  He has had untold back injections, 4 Rhizotomies, one of which apparently caused a serious infection which required intravenous antibiotics (involving at least six hospital visits to have the Pic Lines inserted, cleared and removed) and twice a week visits to the IV clinic, plus the cost of the antibiotics and untold pain meds, including opioids, and multitudes of doctors' appointments.

In the interim, he has been in almost unremitting pain.  It affects his life, and the lives of those close to him, daily, severely limiting what he and his family can do.  It has been more than 3 years since he has needed a disabled parking permit.  Days of golf using a golf cart and going for walks are two years plus in the past.  All of this is wearing him down.   As he is less fit now that before, there is a concern the surgery could be even more dangerous as a result.  The doctor and his staff are very concerned and frustrated as they have to deal daily with other patients with similar conditions.  They will no longer reply to questions by email.  There are at least five other patients who are at some stage along this sad, frustrating journey, and perhaps many more.  People talk of going elsewhere to get the surgery (BC or the US) without any understanding of the cost or time spans involved.  That idea is not an option for this individual and should not have to be. 

The Minister of Health needs to address this issue urgently.  I have written to him so he is aware of it.  We also need to have the wait times for back surgery publicly reported so that Manitobans can find out easily what the current wait will be.  If you are also waiting, please send me your story as each story can help along this journey to getting this problem addressed. 

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