New funding in Budget 2013 will create an ultrasound training program at Red River College to help ensure patients can access the vital diagnostic tests they need, Advanced Education and Literacy Minister Erin Selby and Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.
“Ultrasound technologists help expectant families know their babies will be healthy and improve doctors’ ability to diagnose conditions such as breast cancer and heart problems,” said Selby. “With the creation of this new training program, our government continues to put health care first by ensuring that patients can get the tests they need, when they need them, for years to come.”
The Manitoba government is investing $500,000 to create the new 16-seat ultrasound training program, to be offered at Red River College, and an additional $500,000 to build a new clinical simulation lab. The new training program will replace the existing 13-seat ultrasound course available through Health Sciences Centre, which will move to RRC in March 2014. By increasing the number of ultrasound graduates, hospitals will be able to fill vacancies and continue improving access to these vital diagnostic tests, Selby added.
“This new facility and training program will be an excellent addition to our institution and acknowledges the high-quality training we provide,” said Stephanie Forsyth, president, Red River College. “Our students will benefit from learning in a state-of-the-art facility and be trained in skills that are in high demand.”
Wait times for elective ultrasound tests are an average of eight weeks today, down 60 per cent from the 20-week wait patients faced in 1998. Urgent patients are prioritized and receive their tests much faster, and emergency patients receive their tests without delay. Over 168,000 ultrasound tests are performed at over 20 hospitals across Manitoba every year, with many sites offering elective testing within two to four weeks.
“We want to ensure Manitoba families can access diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound exams, when they need them and without paying any user fees,” said Oswald. “While a handful of people continue to advocate for two-tier health care to let those who can afford it pay private clinics to jump the queue, our government is focused on ensuring health care is available to all patients based on their medical need, not the size of their wallet.”
Oswald noted that an experiment with two-tier health care in the late 1990s allowed patients who could afford it access cataract surgery faster by paying user fees at a private clinic, a policy that led to longer wait times in the public system and cost tax-payers over $2 million in federal penalties under the Canada Health Act.
The story was corrected to say the program will begin at Red River College in March 2014, not January 2014. Entrance requirements are posted on the Red River College website.