Ousted clinic draws Manitobans south of the border
Dozens of Manitobans are forking over hundreds of dollars in North Dakota to have tests done at a private health clinic that was kicked out of Manitoba last month.
The clinic, Mobile Life Screening, charges clients $129 US for vascular screening tests, which can detect clogged arteries that could be warning signs of heart attacks, strokes or other health problems.
The same tests are available in Canada at no charge, but only on a doctor's orders.
The clinic closed its doors in Manitoba in January after the provincial health department abruptly changed its mind about allowing it to operate. The clinic had provided the service to several hundred Manitobans before closing.
The clinic has since reopened south of the U.S. border, and is offering tests at several locations in North Dakota, a few hours' drive from Winnipeg.
Former Winnipegger Randy Spielvogel, who runs the clinic, said all but five of the 45 people booked at the clinic on its first day of service on Thursday were Manitobans.
"The story we get from Manitobans, it's the same story. I mean, I could just run a tape recorder," he said. "They're just frustrated with the health care system in Manitoba, and that is just the simple truth of it."
Spielvogel, a trained medical technologist, said he's not in the business for the money.
"The goal is not to be rich. The goal is to provide a service that Manitobans aren't getting, and that's just the bottom line: They cannot get the service right now the way it sits through their physician," he said.
"If they just walk into their doctor's office, they can't order these tests unless they're symptomatic. Even if they are symptomatic, you know as well as I do what the waiting times are to get these ultrasound exams done. They're not eight or 12 weeks, they're more than that — we hear six months, eight months, 10 months from a lot of people."
'Burning up gasoline'
Brian Hanson is heading south to Grand Forks, N.D., with his wife and neighbours on the weekend to go to the clinic.
Hanson's family has a history of heart trouble, so "if I can do anything preventative, possibly, that's something I would like to do," he told CBC News.
Hanson said he'd have to wait months to have the same tests done in Winnipeg, if he got them at all.
"It's a very lengthy process," he said. At the clinic, "it's basically a phone call, get an appointment, and go."
It doesn't make much sense for Manitoba Health to outlaw a service that could take some pressure off the health-care system, he said.
"I think a lot of Winnipeggers are probably going to take advantage of this," he said. "It means that we're just burning up gasoline to go down to Grand Forks and spend our money there."
Spielvogel is setting up a shuttle service for clients between Winnipeg and the border town of Pembina, N.D. The service is expected to start in March and will cost an extra $30.
Manitoba Health officials say they are trying to arrange a meeting with Spielvogel. In the meantime, they are encouraging Manitobans to have their medical tests done here.