New virtual emergency care service coming to Manitoba in spring 2023

A virtual service that supports health-care providers will launch in May of next year, Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced on Wednesday.

Gordon held a news conference in Steinbach, Man., about the provincial Virtual Emergency Care and Transfer Resource Service, or VECTRS, which will provide support with patient transfers and connecting to specialists in Manitoba. It’s expected to be up and running in May 2023.

The service was initially announced as part of the provincial government’s $200-million plan to retain, train and recruit more than 2,000 health-care workers.

VECTRS is a centralized emergency care service that will provide clinical guidance and patient transport to health-care staff.

“The whole idea is to take the burden off of those sending facilities from having to make all of those arrangements,” Dr. Rob Grierson, the chief medical officer of Shared Health Emergency Response Services said.

“You call us … [and] we’ll help you immediately, providing advice … about patient care and then we’ll make the arrangements for transfer.”

Health-care providers will also have direct access to a team of specialists that can answer their questions.

The virtual service will be staffed 24-7 by a Shared Health physician, advanced care paramedic and an advanced practice respiratory therapist.

Grierson said the service will cost $5 million a year and will save health-care dollars by reducing unnecessary patient transfers, among other benefits. 

“Accessing this support will be even more important in rural and remote and northern communities where it can often take much longer to connect with somebody who can assist in certain high acuity, or even mid-acuity situations,” he said.

The idea was one of the recommendations to come out of Doctors Manitoba’s rural health-care summit.

Grierson said the opportunity for expert advice on standby will be appreciated by medical professionals at other health-care facilities. 

As a longtime emergency physician at Health Sciences Centre, he can’t remember how many times he’s fielded a call from a colleague with nowhere else to turn. 

“They’ve had to make six or seven or a dozen phone calls and they’re kind of saying, ‘Can you just help me?'”

At first, the service will only help with patients dealing with emergent issues, but more services should be offered in the future. 

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