Health Minister Must Stop Delaying Repayment to Heart Attack Patient on Hook for $118,000 Bill: Wiebe

March 9, 2017

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen should stop dragging his feet and cover the exorbitant medical bill a Sprague man who suffered a heart attack and is saddled with a $118,000 medical bill after he was taken to a U.S. hospital, NDP health critic Matt Wiebe said today. He’s also refusing to say whether he will do anything to prevent other Manitobans from ending up with the same unfair burden due to a health crisis, Wiebe added.

“Unconscious and at death's door, a doctor ordered Robin Milne to be transferred to a hospital in North Dakota to receive life-saving treatment,” Wiebe said. “But the Pallister government has left him in the lurch, refusing to cover the massive cost of his treatment. This is a shameless abdication of responsibility by this government.”

Mr. Milne suffered a heart attack in his home in Sprague on Oct. 2, 2016. As per standard practice, he was taken by ambulance to a health clinic in Roseau, Minnesota. A doctor there tried to arrange transportation to St. Boniface hospital in Winnipeg, where doctors were on standby to operate.

When no transportation could be arranged within a safe timeframe and because of his serious condition, the Minnesota doctor transferred Mr. Milne to Grand Forks, N.D, where doctors saved his life. The Grand Forks hospital sent Mr. Milne a bill for $118,000, which the province has refused to cover, even though Mr. Milne had no choice in the matter.

“The stress of recovering from a major heart attack, compounded by crippling medical bills has been wearing down Mr. Milne and his family for months. He has written to the health minister, shared all of his medical files but has not heard back from the health minister. Why not?”

Manitoba has a reciprocal arrangement with several Minnesota hospitals, called the Altru agreement, that covered Mr. Milne’s medical bills in that state, but there is no such arrangement with North Dakota hospitals.

“The health minister has refused to release the Altru agreement. Nor will say whether he will try to expand it to other U.S. hospitals where Manitobans living close to the border could be sent to. Instead, the Pallister government demands citizens like Mr. Milne buy private health insurance to cover the possibility of a heart attack or any other health ailment that may require transfer to a facility in the U.S.,” Wiebe said. “This is incompetent. What imaginary company sells such a policy? The Minister should at long last do the right thing and cover Mr. Milne’s medical costs.”