Fight to save cardiac rehab centre heads to hospital

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

atients and politicians plan to gather Friday in front of London’s Victoria Hospital to protest the planned closing of the Cardiac Fitness Institute.

The gathering planned for 2 p.m. outside the hospital entrance on Commissioners Road is being organized by the London Health Coalition and members of the fitness institute’s patient council. Expected attendees include Progressive Conservative Health Critic Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) and New Democrat Peggy Sattler (London West).

With the winding down of the institute approaching in March, it appears London Health Science Centre (LHSC) officials are more concerned with pleasing Ontario’s Liberal government than meeting the needs of patients who say the facility has been a life-saver since it opened in 1981, Sattler said.

She pointed to changes in a web page on which hospital officials answered questions about their plans. When the page debuted last month, official had written that the cardiac institute was being closed because LHSC received no provincial funding for it, but that explanation was later removed.

“They are trying to shift the language,” Sattler said.

A study published in June in the peer-reviewed journal of the British Cardiovascular Society found those in cardiac rehab for more than three years were 60 per cent more likely to be alive 14 years later than those whose rehab ended after one year.

Ontario only funds six months of cardiac rehab across the province, including at St. Joseph’s Health Care London. By comparison, the Cardiac Fitness Institute at LHSC does not limit how long patients stay in the program, which includes supervised exercise, stress tests and counselling.

Shortchanging cardiac rehab will harm patients and cost the health-care system more in the long run, Sattler said.

“Anyone and every­one who is available (Friday afternoon) should come out and support this program,” Yurek said.

The planned closing comes over the strong objections of the cardiologist who created and runs the institute, Larry Patrick. Hospital officials want to rejig the institute’s building, a former church, to create meeting spaces, he says.

jsher@postmedia.com