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News Release - Manitoba

April 26, 2023

Manitoba Government Announces Wait Times Significantly Reduced at Spine Assessment Clinic

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Investment in Additional Physical Therapists Allowing Manitobans Living with Back Pain to Get Care They Need More Quickly: Gordon

The Manitoba government’s efforts to improve timely access to health care are showing dividends at the Provincial Spine Assessment Clinic, where patients living with back pain have had wait times to see physical therapists reduced by more than 60 per cent in the past eight months, Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced today.

“Our government is committed to improving patient care and bringing down wait times, including increased access to specialized services,” said Gordon. “Investing in the expansion of services has allowed clinicians at the Provincial Spine Assessment Clinic to reach more patients, reduce wait times and open a satellite clinic in Brandon so patients in the Westman region don’t have to travel to Winnipeg for care—all of which gets patients the care they need closer to home.”

Last year, the Manitoba government announced a $400,000 annual investment to hire four new physical therapists at the provincial clinic, which is based at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg and available to patients on a referral-only basis. The investment has also allowed spinal assessment services to expand to a monthly satellite clinic in Brandon at the Brandon Regional Health Centre.

The increased staffing has allowed patient capacity to nearly triple from less than a year ago, allowing more patients to get on-site, virtual and travel-based assessment services. Last month, 468 assessments were performed, a 171 per cent increase from as recently as July 2022, when the monthly average of patients seen at the clinic was 173.

Expanded patient capacity has allowed average patient wait times for these assessments to decrease by 63 per cent since September 2022 from an average of 147 days to 55. This improvement comes despite a 115 per cent increase in patient referrals in the past year.

Clinic officials hope to further reduce wait times in the months ahead, the minister noted, which would free up valuable time for spinal surgeons to provide care to patients with clear surgical indications.

“Dealing with back pain is bad enough, but the waiting and wondering about what’s going on with your body can weigh on a person’s mind. That’s why I was happy to hear from the Provincial Spine Assessment Clinic much sooner than I expected,” said Peter Bernatsky, a patient who received virtual care earlier this month. “I was impressed with the level of detail provided to me about my condition and the advice offered on what non-surgical measures I can take to manage the pain going forward, including stretching, exercises and lifestyle changes.”

The clinic is staffed by physiotherapists in partnership with surgeons from the Winnipeg Spine Program. The expansion initiative was part of the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force’s ongoing efforts to reduce waitlists for diagnostic and surgical procedures in Manitoba.

“The impact of spine problems on a patient’s life is profound and prolonged waits for assessment and treatment negatively impact treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Mike Johnson, a spinal surgeon who supports the clinic. “Approximately 90 per cent of patients referred to the assessment clinic can be helped through treatments other than surgery, such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care or other pain management solutions. The clinic helps get these patients the care they need.”

For more information on the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force, visit

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