Dozens of patients and politicians disregarded gloomy weather and a mid-afternoon start time to gather Friday in front of London’s Victoria Hospital to protest the planned closing of the Cardiac Fitness Institute.
Both hospital brass and Ontario’s ruling Liberals bore the brunt of the anger as patients and their families shared stories of the life-saving care they received at a fitness institute that opened in 1981 but now is scheduled to be shuttered by the end of April.
“My mother was one of the first patients,” said Tim Gatten. The institute allowed her to live another 10 years, and its that sort of preventative care that Ontario needs.
“This is the best preventative program anywhere,” he said.
The gathering outside the hospital entrance on Commissioners Road drew the London Health Coalition, members of the fitness institute’s patient council, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, the PC health critic at Queen’s Park, and London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler.
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 and 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.
By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press