Manitoba

Manitoba Clinic seeks deal with province to avoid financial collapse as it loses doctors

Manitoba’s largest private clinic is expected to lose more than one-third of its doctors in the coming months as it continues to ask for help from the province to stay afloat.

Province's largest private clinic currently being shielded by creditor protection as it seeks long-term lease

A building in the winter in Winnipeg.
More than one-third of the Manitoba Clinic's 56 doctors are anticipated to leave the clinic by April. (Darin Morash/CBC)

Manitoba's largest private clinic is expected to lose more than one-third of its doctors in the coming months as it continues to ask for help from the province to stay afloat.

Twenty of the Manitoba Clinic's 56 doctors are anticipated to leave the clinic by April — either moving their practices elsewhere or retiring early.

That's according to a report from the insolvency firm a court has ordered to monitor the financial operations of the Winnipeg clinic as it moves through creditor protection proceedings.

The clinic's management is working to come up with a strategy to retain its remaining physicians — which its future viability depends on.

Looking to province

It also hopes to come to a "mutually beneficial arrangement" with the provincial government that would address the clinic's vacancy issues and the province's shortage of medical space that it needs to tackle ongoing surgical and diagnostic backlogs, the monitor's report said.

The report said both the monitor and the clinic's chief executive officer have been in touch with the deputy minister of health and the premier's office about the potential to strike such a deal.

One meeting in December also included representatives from a handful of other health agencies who toured 3½ floors of hospital-grade space, the monitor said.

A person stands outside a building.
A person walks into the Manitoba Clinic in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (Darin Morash/CBC)

The monitor said it and the clinic's CEO encouraged those agencies that "time was of the essence."

"If they believed the clinic could assist with their agency on space shortage or services, they should provide a proposal to the clinic for consideration," the report said.

Options presented included long-term leases for its unused "vacant turn-key exam space, office space and X-ray space," and the potential sale of the entire Sherbrook Street building, the monitor said.

The clinic is being shielded for now by creditor protection granted in Manitoba's Court of King's Bench as the two corporations that own it aim to secure a long-term lease from the province.

And while discussions with the government "have been positive to date, there has yet to be a proposal," said the report, which was filed Jan. 20.

Both the monitor and CEO "continue to strongly encourage the various agencies to act quickly, should they wish to provide a proposal" to the clinic while it's restructuring, the monitor said.

Vacant space proposals

The clinic also met last summer with Manitoba's surgical backlog task force to pitch the idea of using the vacant space  to use the X-ray rooms in the building's basement, build out four more treatment rooms and increase day treatments in endoscopy, EKG and X-ray.

The clinic was awarded contracts for endoscopy (2,800 procedures in 2022-23) and Holter monitors (2,100 procedures in 2022-23).

Manitoba Health is aware of the clinic's financial issues, and has engaged in several ways to provide assistance, according to a statement from a government spokesperson.

That included advising the clinic to partner with other organizations, including the Health Sciences Centre, Cancer Care Manitoba, Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation and others, the spokesperson wrote in an email. 

The University of Manitoba also offered the clinic participation in the Bannatyne Campus master planning, and this "could provide some resolutions for challenges to the corporation that owns and operates the clinic," the statement said.

An application from the clinic for women's health services had been under review by the province's diagnostic and surgical recovery task foce, but the application was withdrawn due to clinician departures, the spokesperson said.

Primary care loss a concern: NDP

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he's very concerned about so many doctors set to leave the clinic, which is near the Health Sciences Centre — Manitoba's biggest hospital — and serves an area of the city with "a lot of health-care needs."

Wab Kinew, leader of the Opposition Manitoba New Democratic Party, says he's very concerned about so many doctors set to leave the Manitoba Clinic. (Darin Morash/CBC)

"The Manitoba Clinic offers great primary care, including to a lot of kids," Kinew said Tuesday.

"And when we think about how busy the emergency rooms are, like the adult emerg at HSC and the children's ER — when we think about how busy those centres are right now, I think a lot of people want to see primary care options nearby."

Manitoba Clinic chief executive officer Keith McConnell did not respond to a request for comment.

The monitor's report said among its tasks during the clinic's financial restructuring is to determine how much space the clinic actually needs.

The clinic moved into the 133,000 sq. ft. building after it was completed in 2017 and is the site's largest tenant.

About 90 per cent of its revenue comes from billing the health department for services performed by physicians, the report said. The clinic performs about 49,000 medical procedures a year.

As the creditor protection proceedings continue, the clinic's patients can continue to book appointments and procedures as usual, it said.

The monitor's report was submitted ahead of a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday. 

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