OHIP-certified offices down to one in St. Thomas

Local LHIN still undecided on fallback plan

OHIP-certified offices down to one in St. Thomas

By Louis Pin, St. Thomas Times-Journal

 

On May 31, MobilityFit Physiotherapy will close their doors in St. Thomas for good.

It’s sobering news for some physiotherapy patients. Only two clinics in St. Thomas offer publicly funded physiotherapy through OHIP, and paying for that service without a benefits package can be a tall order, especially for seniors.

Initial assessments alone can cost close to $100.

Local MP Jeff Yurek is frustrated the government still has not announced a plan to re-allocate the publicly funded service disappearing in St. Thomas.

“People are probably going to have to go to London,” Yurek said. “The majority of patients, the people who (use OHIP-funded physiotherapy) have had knee or hip replacement surgeries. Having them drive to London for these services is terrible.”

In 2014 the Ministry of Health and South West LHIN announced 26 physiotherapy providers in Southwestern Ontario would be eligible to provide OHIP-funded services, up from three previously. Of those 26 only two, MobilityFit Physiotherapy and Closing the Gap, on Talbot Street, were from St. Thomas.

Other physiotherapy centres including Closing the Gap have offered to pick up lost OHIP coverage from MobilityFit.

But the Southwestern LHIN has not announced where the services will go.

When contacted by the Times-Journal a LHIN representative said they have been working with the Ministry of Health “to determine where best to allocate this clinic’s funding to ensure ongoing access to service.”

That does not mean services will stay in St. Thomas — only that they will stay in the LHIN’s coverage area.

“We’ve certainly expressed an interest in picking up (cases) to be able to serve that community,” said David Heaton, director of client services with Closing the Gap. “The dollars, the availability of service, will likely remain in St. Thomas and Elgin. We just don’t know where.”

“We’ve had contact with the LHIN but we haven’t heard anything back from them,” added Chris Streib, president of Talbot Trail Physiotherapy.

In 2014, Talbot Trail Physiotherapy applied for OHIP eligibility in the South West LHIN but was not selected. They have since talked about absorbing MobilityFit, either by moving into the existing YMCA location or amalgamating patients.

That would help clients who pay for physiotherapy or qualify through their benefits plan. But patients who rely on OHIP would not be able to use it unless the LHIN officially allocates funding to Talbot Trail Physiotherapy.

“I’d even say St. Thomas is underfunded when it comes to (publicly-covered physiotherapy),” Streib said.

Laura Hey, owner of MobilityFit, was unavailable for comment. A post on mobilityfit.ca said Hey would start work at the Arthritis Society in London at the end of May, months after the clinic stopped accepting new clients.

“The longer (the South West LHIN) takes to act, the longer our county will go with less services,” Yurek said.

 

lpin@postmedia.com