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Patients plead to keep LHSC’s Cardiac Fitness Institute open

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horvath listens to current and former patients of London Health Science Centre's Cardiac Fitness Institute. (Photo by Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL).
Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horvath listens to current and former patients of London Health Science Centre's Cardiac Fitness Institute. (Photo by Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL). Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL

The leader of Ontario’s NDP isn’t happy about the pending closure of London Health Sciences Centre’s Cardiac Fitness Institute (CFI).

“This kind of program is what we call an upstream investment. It’s at the very beginning, it helps people stay healthy, and doesn’t end up costing as much, and ends up with better outcomes for the patients,” Andrea Horwath said Monday, while hosting a round table with current patients of CFI.

One of those patients was Rolend Lafond, who has been with CFI since undergoing triple bypass surgery in 1989.

“I wouldn’t be here without it, there’s no question about it.”

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Earlier this month, London Health Sciences Centre announced it would be ending patient referrals to the CFI by March 2018.

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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, according to a statement from outgoing LHSC president and CEO Murray Glendining.

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

Lafond is passionately asking hospital officials to take another look.

“Get your damn suit off, take off your shirt and tie, and go down there and talk to people who are there,” Lafond said. “Just spend one day. It will give them a view point at why we’re upset and why we’re here, because if it wasn’t for CFI, many of us wouldn’t be here.”

Rolend Lafond has been with the Cardiac Fitness Institute since undergoing triple bypass surgery in 1989. (Photo by Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL)
Rolend Lafond has been with the Cardiac Fitness Institute since undergoing triple bypass surgery in 1989. (Photo by Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL). Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL

As a patient for nearly three decades, Lafond says the quality of care through the CFI is much more extensive than the program at St. Joseph’s, which only lasts six months.

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“They worked with you on your way of eating. They’re working with you on your habits, to change your habits and change your routine to make yourself healthy, and stay healthy,” Lafond said.

“CFI is without a doubt the program that will keep us all going, that has kept us all going.”

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Horwath is echoing what she heard from CFI patients: a six-week-long program isn’t long enough.

“The institute is there for people. For some people, they’ve been using it for decades. They found that this is the solution that helps them maintain those changes over long periods of time, and that’s the only thing that helps them stay healthy,” Horwath said.

No plans have been announced for what the LHSC plans to do with the vacant space.

The hospital says it receives no public funding to support similar services, as such services fall outside the mandate of acute care hospitals like LHSC.