In early January of 2018, the London Health Sciences Center (LHSC) announced it was shutting down the Cardiac Fitness Institute (CFI).
Since then, the fight to save the institute at Victoria Hospital is increasingly drawing attention from Queen’s Park politicians with a June 7 election looming.
“I wouldn’t be alive here today without the Cardiac Fitness Institute,” said Al Herrington, a patient who has been attending the institute for 15 years.
“I mean, if you just read the guidelines the province has for cardiac care, this is the only program in the London area that meets the official standards,” he said.
According to the LHSC, all new patients will be referred over to St. Joseph’s Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program, a program designed to only last up to six months for a patient.
“It takes damn near two month’s just to get into that program, and I mean, with all due respect, you could be dead by then,” said 30 year patient at the CFI, Acey Whaby.
“If it wasn’t for Dr. Patrick and the CFI, who has taken care of me all throughout these years, I would be gone. How is a person supposed to judge what you need in only six months? Nothing makes sense here,” said Whaby.
The reason the hospital cites for closing the CFI? Well, according to their official data, they are in a $150,000 deficit due to the institute, with patients only accounting for $50,000 in funding in the overall $300,000 in yearly upkeep.
“But you know, later, it came out that we (patients)are paying an extra $63,000 that they didn’t originally count in, in addition to an extra $100,000 that we fork over for different things, such as stress tests,” said Dr. Reinhard Helbing, a former Windsor University professor of physics and now patient at the institute.
“So all in all, we actually pay more than the supposed 50 per cent the hospital pays, meaning their numbers are false,” he said.
A study published in June in the peer-reviewed journal of the British Cardiovascular Society, found that those in cardio rehab for more than three years were 60 per cent more likely to be alive 14 years later than those whose rehab ended after one year.
“Yet the hospital says there is no information to back up that the CFI is better. Well, I’m looking right at the comparison, and the data clearly shows the Cardiac fitness institute is the best choice going forward,” said Helbing.
A 2016 study published in the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine found that patients who stay in the Goderich program called Healthy Hearts, improve long after Ontario cuts off rehab funding at six months, and that the benefits are maintained for nine years. Goderich’s program was inspired by the CFI.
“I have a genetic heart condition that has been passed on to my twin boys,” said patient Jeremy Kwiecien.
“It’s not a matter of if they are going to have trouble, but when. If they get rid of the Cardiac Fitness Institute, I’m not sure where they will get the treatment they need once difficulties arise,” he said.
The largest aging population right now is the baby boomers. The Oldest boomers are in their early 70s today.
Boomers will enter their senior years with “higher rates of obesity and diabetes and lower rates of very good or excellent health status, putting significant strain on our healthcare system,” a 2016 United Health Foundation study of the health of senior Americans found.
“The Cardiac Fitness institute is the only suitable cardiac care program in London. Yet, with this aging population, a size the world has never seen before, we are getting rid of it,” said Al Herrington.