Health Minister sent bill for $ 14,000 for knee surgery

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The Winnipegger who skipped the multi-year waiting list for knee surgery, performing his procedure in Lithuania at his own expense, has submitted his bill to Health Minister Audrey Gordon.

Knee operation for local pensioner in Lithuania “like clockwork”

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Max Johnson at his home in Winnipeg after returning from Lithuania, where he underwent knee surgery.

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MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Max Johnson at his home in Winnipeg after returning from Lithuania, where he underwent knee surgery.

Posted: 7:00 p.m. November 18, 2021

Max Johnson returned from his last trip abroad with a memory: a new knee.

The former owner of a Winnipeg travel agency is now at home after undergoing knee replacement surgery at the Nordorthopedics clinic in Lithuania, saving the minimum 18 months he had to wait for such a procedure in Manitoba.

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Max Johnson, who returned from Lithuania with a new left knee this weekend, submitted a bill for 9,953 euros, or $ 14,431.85, to Gordon on Thursday.

Johnson argued it was a deal because a government report shows the procedure cost Manitoba $ 21,430 in 2019.

“It would be nice if they sent me a check, but I would like them to sort out the waiting list problem,” Johnson, a former owner of a travel agency, said Friday.

“They will have to put more resources into doing it. In these disruptive times, with waiting lists of thousands of people, we should be able to break out of regular protocol.

“If we can do it for less money (in Lithuania), I think people should be able to do it and the province should pay for it. It’s a crisis and we need to do something to reduce these numbers ( waiting list) .

“We have no choice at the moment.”

“This is a crisis and we need to do something to reduce these numbers (waiting lists).” – Max Johnson

Doctors Manitoba has estimated that the backlog for surgeries and procedures has reached nearly 130,000. The backlog for knee and hip replacements alone has grown from about 6,000 to 8,000 during the pandemic.

Johnson underwent surgery in Lithuania, a member of the European Union, on October 28, then received two weeks of intensive physiotherapy and massages at a spa there.

The bill Johnson submitted includes the cost of his surgery, implanted prosthesis, rehabilitation services and COVID-19 tests before and after the trip he had to go through.

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Reporters on Friday asked Premier Heather Stefanson, who was Minister of Health during the third wave of the pandemic when patients had to be airlifted to other provinces because intensive care units were overcrowded, whether the province would foot the bill.

She did not answer the question directly and said Health Minister Audrey Gordon would take care of it.


Premier Heather Stefanson did not respond on Friday whether the province would foot the bill.  (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Premier Heather Stefanson did not respond on Friday whether the province would foot the bill. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

“The most important thing is that Manitobans are able to get the health care they need. when they need it, ”Stefanson said.

“Obviously, COVID has created backlogs in the system. We recognize it. We are working on it. I thank the Minister of Health for all the incredible work she does and everyone who works in the health care system. diligently to help Manitobans in need.

Winnipegger Marianne Toews, who has been awaiting hip surgery since early 2020 and who has been told it could finally be done in the spring, said if the province paid for people to travel to Lithuania it would go.

“I would definitely go,” Toews said.

“It’s cheaper for the government and people would step off that long list and not end up with more problems because of the long wait. Whenever hospitals stop all surgeries except emergencies, time to wait. ‘wait is lengthening. ”

“I would definitely go.” – Marianne Toews, who was awaiting hip surgery

Toews said she had a friend in the same situation who would, too.

“There has to be a better way,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, Doctors Manitoba said doctors would prefer the province to quickly expand surgical capacity here rather than sending patients out of the province.

“Doctors are very concerned about patients stuck in the huge backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures, which is growing every day,” said spokesperson Keir Johnson.

“We hope the government will unveil a task force next week to oversee the elimination of this backlog and help patients get the surgeries and tests they need.”

Johnson said surgeries were best performed here for patients.

“Patients can have the surgery close to home and recover with the comfort and support of family and friends,” he said. “With the exception of highly specialized procedures, sending patients out of province for surgery is, and would be, a worrying last resort.

“We believe there are still local solutions that could rapidly increase capacity that should be considered first, to ensure patients receive timely care close to home.”

“Doctors are very concerned about patients stuck in the bewildering backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures, which is growing every day.” – Physicians Manitoba spokesperson Keir Johnson

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said the problem “speaks to the desperation of Manitobans who are suffering while waiting for surgery.

“The most important thing we can do to reduce the backlog of surgeries is to fix our health care system and help people get the surgeries they need right here in Manitoba.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, who in the last election pledged his party would lift the cap on hip and knee surgeries, said the government must fix the public health system.

“There are over 130,000 surgeries and tests pending, and although sending people to Lithuania may work for a handful of people, it is by no means a realistic solution,” Lamont said.

“We need a health care system that can treat the people in our community. We don’t have that anymore, and it’s appalling. The idea that every Manitoban should get on a plane and travel to another continent to get treatment on time. because what should be routine surgery is horrible.

“We need to fix our public health system, starting with the launch of the task force that Doctors Manitoba requested in June to close the backlog.

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Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Journalist

Kevin Rollason is one of the Winnipeg Free Press’s most versatile journalists. Whether it is covering the town hall, the courthouse or general reports, one can count on Rollason not only to answer the 5 Ws – Who, What, When, Where and Why – but to do so with a interesting and accessible way for readers.

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