Revamped plastic surgery clinic in Winnipeg offers quicker care for trauma patients

People who need reconstructive plastic surgery now have a dedicated clinic for their care in Winnipeg.

The redeveloped plastic surgery clinic at Health Sciences Centre includes an advanced plastic surgery procedure room with the same equipment and design standards as a general operating room, making it the first of its kind in Canada, said the HSC Foundation, which funded the $1.8-million project.

The clinic on Sherbrook Street also features the latest imaging equipment and 10 rooms for procedures that don’t require the advanced surgery room. Before the redevelopment, there were just two of those rooms.

The remodelled facility started providing services in November but was officially unveiled on Thursday.

HSC Foundation board chair Tina Jones said the clinic will help more than 20,000 patients annually.

Patients who require general anesthetic will still need to be booked into a regular HSC operating room, but all others can be helped at the new clinic. 

That means about 85 per cent of plastic surgery trauma patients will no longer require one of the hospital’s general operating rooms, said HSC Foundation president and CEO Jonathon Lyon.

That takes pressure off the demand for general operating rooms and helps address surgical wait times for all patients, he said.

“I cannot repeat this enough and how important that is,” Lyon said.

It is estimated changes will free up 49 operating days per year in HSC’s general operating rooms, a news release from the HSC Foundation says.

The clinic’s advanced plastic surgery room also requires fewer staff than a conventional operating room, so that frees up staff as well, the release says.

A man in short hair and wearing glasses, looks off to the side from the camera view
Dr. Edward Buchel says the new clinic’s timely access improves outcomes and generally improves a patient’s quality of life. (Prabhjot Lotey/CBC)

Often it was plastic surgery trauma patients — those who required reconstructive surgery from injuries due to burns, cancers and certain fractures — who were bumped when there were scheduling conflicts, Lyon said. That was a source of frustration not only for the patients but also the staff who had to deliver that news, he said.

Now wait times for patients who don’t require general anesthetic have been significantly reduced. Where it used to be weeks, it is often now the same day as their assessment.

That helps patients get the care they need, when they need it, said surgery site director Dr. Edward Buchel.

“We’re not referring to facelifts and tummy tucks and breast augmentations. What we’re referring to is people recovering from injury or illnesses,” he said.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of these patients that show up every month.”

The wait for a surgical time in the past was not only a trial in terms of anxiety and loss of income for those who could not work, it could often be dangerous, with a greater reliance on opioids to deal with the pain, Buchel said.

“On top of that, the longer we delay definitive treatment, the worse their outcomes typically are. We knew we were hurting people’s quality of life. We knew we were damaging their day-to-day life while they waited,” he said.

To make matters worse, many people seen by the clinic need to come in from far distances, such as northern Manitoba. Others don’t have fixed addresses or phones, Buchel said.

“That’s a huge problem with getting them back into the operating room [if their procedure was bumped],” he said. “Now, our new model … allows us to see them, diagnose them and treat them on one visit.

“It is a huge success for our patients.”