London heart patients start exercising at private facility instead of one recommended by LHSC

CFI patients warm up for their 12 o'clock exercise class at Advanced Medical Group's ground floor exercise room. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

Cardiac patients have found a new place to work out in London after their long-standing fitness program was shuttered earlier this year.

The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) announced it was giving the Cardiac Fitness Institute’s (CFI) equipment and money to the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging (CCAA) in March, but over the past two weeks about 65 CFI patients have started exercising at Advanced Medical Group (AMG), a private medical centre on Victoria Street, instead.

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Joanne McIntosh, a loud voice in protests against the closure and the chair of the CFI’s patient advisory committee, told 980 CFPL the CCAA was “trying to help,” but that it didn’t have what she and other patients were looking for.

“Their staff is training in CPR and First Aid. It’s not a medical program. It’s certainly not a cardiac program.”

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McIntosh said a prime concern for CFI patients has been finding an alternative place to work out, where there are doctors nearby. And that’s what AMG provides.

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“If a code should be called, the doctors all come running,” said McIntosh.

“They have the oxygen, they have the AEDs, the crash carts, everything that we need to stabilize us while they’re calling 911. Which is about as safe as we’re going to get.”

Benny Lefebvres, AMG’s manager of business development, explained why they’re a good fit for CFI patients.

“We have a facility that’s brand new when it comes to the fitness end of it, we have the heart rate monitors for it, but more importantly we have the safety aspect. We have all doctors on board here, we have two ORs in here with a crash cart, right beside the gym.”

Lefebvres said he toured the CFI before it closed, alongside its founder, Dr. Larry Patrick, to make sure they would be able to provide a similar model of care. He came away from that experience, understanding that CFI patients were a big community.

“There’s a lot of people that meet together, go for coffee together, they hang out after together, and that’s one thing we can do here too. We have a nice bistro, a nice little area, you can sit outside, you can sit in the bistro.”

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The AMG has multiple exercise and yoga-meditation rooms, a variety of exercise equipment, and a doctor on site who is conducting stress testing for patients.

It hasn’t received the CFI’s stress test and exercise equipment, nor any of its $63,000 fund of donations, which was all earmarked by the LHSC for the CCAA.

Lefebvres says since they’re a private organization, and not a charitable one, they wouldn’t be able to receive those donations.

McIntosh described it as “starting from scratch,” and Lefebvres said AMG has the room to grow as more patients show interest.

The London Health Sciences Centre declined to comment but referred 980 CFPL to their statement in March that refers patients to the CCAA.

980 CFPL reached out to the CCAA for comment but has yet to hear back.

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