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Province Investigates Mobile Surgery, Diagnostic Services for Rural, Northern Manitoba

News Release – Manitoba
March 31, 2011

Mobile Units Have Potential to Bring More Services Closer to Home for Manitoba Families: Oswald

The province has issued a request for information (RFI) to review the options of configuration for implementing a mobile services model of care delivery in Manitoba, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.“Mobile surgical and diagnostic units have the potential to bring more health services to rural and northern communities while also reducing wait times for all Manitobans,” said Oswald. “This will build on our progress in establishing permanent health services in rural areas including cancer services, dialysis, surgical programs and diagnostic imaging equipment in dozens of communities around the province.”

While mobile surgical and diagnostic units are used in other countries, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States, they are not common in Canada. Currently, the province has mobile units that offer breast screening, ultrasound services and a northern mobile retinal screening program.

The new mobile units could offer routine and/or elective day surgery services that are deemed safe to offer in a mobile suite. These could include:

• diagnostic and interventional procedures using scopes, certain biopsies and minor surgeries on the knee, elbow, wrist and shoulder; and
• procedures done under local anaesthetic such as skin cancer removal, carpal tunnel surgeries, trigger finger repairs, minor ear, nose and throat surgeries, cataract surgeries and minor hernia repairs.

Mobile units could also offer additional diagnostic procedures including MRI and bone density scanning.

The RFI will assist Manitoba Health in analyzing cost implications, identifying requirements to ensure compliance to patient safety standards and determining the logistics of offering mobile surgical services in rural Manitoba, said the minister. Mobile units have the potential to bring services to smaller communities that don’t have a large enough population to support a permanent program.

“While mobile surgical suites are used in other countries, Manitoba would be the first province in Canada to offer permanent mobile surgical services and the request for information will help us investigate whether this innovative approach to service delivery is well-suited to Manitoba’s climate, geography and health system,” said Oswald. “Our goal is to provide Manitobans with safe, high‑quality, cost-efficient surgical and diagnostic services, as close to their homes as possible.”

Mobile surgical and diagnostic services would complement steps taken since 1999 to improve health care for rural and northern Manitobans including:

• the new Western Manitoba Cancer Centre, which will offer radiation therapy for the first time outside of Winnipeg when it opens this spring;
• the first MRI machines outside of Winnipeg in Brandon and Morden/Winkler;
• the addition of CT scanners in Brandon, Steinbach, Thompson, The Pas, Selkirk, Morden/Winkler and Portage la Prairie;
• new community cancer sites offering chemotherapy in Neepawa, Russell, Hamiota, Deloraine and Pinawa;
• new and expanded dialysis units in Gimli, Norway House, The Pas, Swan River, Boundary Trails and Island Lake, with new units set to open this year in Russell, Berens River and near Peguis First Nation;
• new or expanded surgical programs in many communities across the province including cataract surgery in Swan River, Minnedosa and Portage la Prairie, and hip and knee replacement surgery in Morden/Winkler;
• new or renovated hospitals, personal-care homes and other health facilities in dozens of rural and northern communities;
• new and expanded training programs as well as grants to help recruit and retain doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals to rural and northern communities; and
• a dramatic expansion to Telehealth, which offers videoconferencing links in dozens of rural communities around the province so patients can attend referrals with their specialists in major urban centres without having to travel outside of their home communities.

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