Backlog of spinal assessments in Manitoba beginning to drop

The wait time for Manitobans looking to receive spinal assessments has dropped in recent months.

According to Manitoba Health, the wait times for people to see a doctor about their spinal conditions have been reduced, months after the Spine Assessment Clinic in Manitoba received funding to hire additional staff.

“We’ve been able to get our waitlist down to around two months, whereas before, it was months, and months and months, so the waitlist has been dramatically reduced,” said Dr. Michael Johnson with the clinic.

Last year, Manitoba Health invested $400,000 into the clinic as part of its plans to reduce the backlog of surgical procedures in the province, which was at one point sitting at 155 days.

“We got to the point where we only had two assessors and weren’t making a significant dent in this massive amount of consults we receive,” Johnson said. “On a typical week, the Winnipeg Spine Clinic will see 100 to 120 consults. With two assessors, they were doing good work, but they weren’t making a dent in the waitlist.”

The money was used to hire four additional specialists, increasing the total to six, and allowing the clinic to continue knocking down the waitlist. According to the province, 468 assessments were performed last month, a 171 per cent increase from July 2022, when the monthly average of patients seen at the clinic was 173.

“The fact that the increased resources came and allowed us to not only continue to do the good work, but also to drop the wait times, is something that I’m very proud of,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the vast majority of consults at a spinal clinic do not require surgery, instead using non-surgical treatments such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care, or pain clinic injections to alleviate their issues.

“The goal of that clinic is to see them, assess them, and if they need surgery, they’re referred back to us,” he said. “If they don’t, the goal of the assessment clinic is to take them down the path to the care that is more appropriate.”

Johnson says the investment has also allowed the clinic to open a satellite office that runs monthly at the Brandon Regional Health Centre. He adds the clinic wants to increase its presence throughout the province to assist people dealing with spinal issues.

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