Hospital uncertainty worse than bad news

By Robert Frank
with files from Kevin Woodhouse

Patients who live outside Montreal but currently go there for medical treatment in are upset that they’re still in the dark about the Parti québécois’ health care regionalization plans.

During a news conference last week, Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert insisted that no one will be forced to seek treatment elsewhere. Mario di Carlo, who represents patients at the McGill University Hospital Centre’s (MUHC) said that still leaves a lot of open-ended questions that would like to know the answers to.

“What’s going to happen to the university hospitals?” asked the spokesman for the MUHC Central Users Committee (CUC), during an interview with The Suburban. “Will they be obliged to send patients elsewhere?”

“The bottom line is that is that university hospitals conduct research,” di Carlo explained. “It remains to be seen how whole system will be affected and whether patients will have a choice—or if someone will be swaying them to do something that they might not necessarily be happy about.”

“We will be continuing to monitor the situation,” he said.

For the past four weeks, Montreal’s health care authority has remained hors combat while The Suburban has repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to get it to spell out details of how it will handle the pending reorganization, expected April 1.

“Some patients, as is to be expected, are very concerned and even anxious, as they do not know yet where they will have their dialysis treatments,” CUC member Evelyn Seligman told The Suburban in an electronic mail message.

“No information has been given to us as to how the divestment of patients will be carried out,” said Seligman, who also represents patients on the MUHC’s Dialysis Outpatients Committee. “No one on either of these committees has received any details about the divestment of the general patient body of the MUHC.”

“Very few details have been finalized in the context of the dialysis situation,” Seligman said. “The situation involving MUHC dialysis patients is in flux. They do not know yet where they will receive treatments. There are no answers yet from the administrations, the [regional health authority] or the Health Ministry.”

The MUHC patient representatives have taken a dim view how officials have handled the impending transfer.

“Dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment,” she reminded. “MUHC officials have assured us that dialysis patients will continue to have the same excellent care that they have now.”

“Our members are extremely displeased that no reply has been given,” she concluded. “It’s very, very unsettling for patients, for sure,” agreed di Carlo. “They haven’t really been consulted as to whether this will work and whether it is better for them.”

“Will it be the best care, or just care?” he asked.

“Patient-centred care entails ensuring that whatever is done to serve or care for patients serves their desires and needs—rather than what the institution needs,” he told The Suburban in an interview. “Regionalization won’t accomplish that, on the basis of the information that I have.”

“Will every health care professional take the same approach to patients, or will some be pushed and not have a choice? We don’t know. It’s very difficult to find out what the framework will be,” he concluded.

Officials have avoided outlining details since The Suburban broke the story last month that the Parti québécois government wants Montreal hospitals to offload their patients to the surrounding regions.

ASSS Montreal declined to schedule an interview with The Suburban to discuss how regionalization plan will be implemented, and West Island health care officials have agreed to a meeting with their director-general three times, only to abruptly postpone on each occasion. As the newspaper went to press, they indicated are not prepared to meet The Suburban before March 16—long after many observers anticipate that a provincial election might be called.

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