Senseless, Careless, Heartless

Shuttering the London Cardiac Fitness Institute will save the equivalent of one bureaucrat’s salary. But hey, there will be more meeting space

HEART DISEASE IS the number two killer of Canadians, right behind cancer. In London, we have enjoyed a first-rate cardiac rehabilitation program at the London Cardiac Fitness Institute (LCFI) for 30-odd years. Led by Dr. Larry Patrick, it has intervened in thousands of lives to help survivors of cardiac disease come to grips with their condition and pursue the healthiest options to extend their life expectancy and relative good health.

Nineteen years ago, I had a series of heart attacks, and what I learned from Dr. Patrick and his staff as a patient at LCFI gave me a much ­better idea of how to avoid further cardiac problems (and strains on the healthcare system) in the future. And so far, so good.

The great value of the LCFI has been its ­ability to motivate positive change on a long-term basis. It offers heart patients the opportunity to ­exercise regularly under medical supervision, an important factor for effective rehabilitation, and keeps them in touch with experts in the field to provide support and encouragement.

But the LCFI has a long history of battling with bureaucrats for funding, one of the prime reasons for the yearly public donations of roughly half its budget.

LHSC has announced that patient referrals to LCFI will end in just a few weeks, because its ­services “do not fall under the mandate of acute care hospitals and LHSC… can no longer ­subsidize the costs of the CFI program.”

Larry Patrick says this is patent nonsense. The LCFI currently serves approximately 1,400 patients per year, at a reported operating cost of approximately $300,000. Half of that comes from LHSC, another $150,000 from supporters’ donations. So, these cardiac patients get ongoing support and monitoring for, more or less, $100 per year from the hospital.

Figuring in all the perks and benefits, the amount LHSC actually pays to deliver this ­special care to at-risk patients is about the same as the remuneration for one upper-mid-level bureaucrat. Think about that for a moment. A proven healthcare program to extend the lives of 1,400 people, or one more bureaucrat to shuffle ever-growing piles of paperwork.

Dr. Patrick was told by an administration source the LCFI building is needed for more ­meeting space for hospital administrative staff. Even if that is true, why should cardiac patients be made to pay for a bureaucratic failure to ­provide enough conference rooms? Considering the tens of millions of dollars spent on expanding the Commissioners Road campus, was there no way to incorporate the needed meeting space?

Did none of the battalions of bureaucrats and planners at the Ministry and hospital notice this just might be a problem? For that kind of lack of foresight alone heads should roll. But that doesn’t happen much in our medical administration system.

I have tried for years to get people involved in demanding a more rational healthcare ­delivery model, one that is able to meet the genuine healthcare needs of Ontarians in a timely manner. But the Ministry continues to pretend the emperor’s new wardrobe is a fashion-setter and our healthcare problems are to be found more in media sensationalism than in the healthcare system itself.

And most Ontarians are too busy trying to keep their heads above water in our troubled economy to actively crusade for better healthcare—until they need it. Sadly, by then it is often too late, and our hopes for a more sensible, carefully planned system remain unrealized.

Modern medicine has discovered and implemented amazing new drugs, technologies and treatments. But without a big dose of old-fashion common sense we risk much of it being buried under piles of paper and miles of red tape, as well as the costs of dealing with short-sighted administration policies that sometimes harm patients more than help.

Just ask Larry Patrick.   Jim Chapman