LHSC to close Cardiac Fitness Institute

London Health Sciences Centre, Victoria Hospital sign, September 6, 2017. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) plans to wind down its long-running program for cardiac patients this year, saying it can no longer afford to subsidize the program’s costs.

The Cardiac Fitness Institute (CFI) has been in operation since 1981 and will stop taking patient referrals come March.

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According to the hospital, recent data shows fewer than 10 patients are referred to the institute every month and about 100 patients have continued to utilize CFI’s exercise facilities on an ongoing basis.

A majority of post-acute cardiac patients in the London region are referred to the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention program operated by St. Joseph’s Health Care London, said outgoing LHSC president and CEO Murray Glendining in a statement.

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The St. Joseph’s program offers a model of rehabilitation care endorsed by CorHealth Ontario and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that sees patients referred for up to six months of provincially-funded post-event therapy and counselling services, Glendinning said.

LHSC, he says, receives no public funding to support similar services as such services fall outside the mandate of acute care hospitals like LHSC. CFI’s annual operating costs are around $300,000, according to hospital officials, adding LHSC subsidizes about 50 per cent.

“Given these realities, and after consultation with St. Joseph’s Health Care London, CorHealth, and the Local Health Integration Network — which also advised the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care — the decision has been made to wind down the Cardiac Fitness Institute,” Glendinning said.

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According to the LHSC, all CFI patients referred until March will receive six months of cardiac rehabilitation care. After that date, all post-acute cardiac patients will be referred to the St. Joseph’s program.

In an FAQ posted to its website, LHSC officials said the approaching May retirement of CFI’s physician, Dr. Larry Patrick, 70, was a “natural point to review the viability of this program in light of the ongoing funding constraints that LHSC faces.”

It’s not clear yet what LHSC plans to do with the physical space currently utilized by CFI. Speaking with the London Free Press Tuesday, Patrick charged that the program’s patients were being abandoned by the hospital, and added he had been told by a hospital administrator that the chapel the program occupies was needed for more administration meeting space.

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“There has been no final decision made about the use of physical space at this time,” wrote hospital officials in the FAQ.

— With files from Matthew Trevithick

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