Refused medical care con't ...

A Lambton County woman is outraged that her late husband was refused medical care at a London hospital because he was from out-of-town.
Allister McCabe, 74, died a month after a specialist at St. Joseph’s Health Care said McCabe should seek treatment in his own area, which is defined by Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) boundaries.
Since Sarnia-Lambton is outside the London LHIN area, McCabe was told to find care closer to home.
But no Sarnia-Lambton doctor was immediately available to perform the diagnostic biopsy that McCabe required, so the couple looked to London, his widow said.
“It would have been a very quick procedure. We would have been in and out the same day but they wouldn’t do it,” said Adrien McCabe, of Oil Springs.
She isn’t certain her husband would have survived had his treatment started earlier, she said. “But we’ll never know.”
After Allister McCabe’s condition deteriorated he was admitted to the Cancer Care Treatment Centre in London, and the family was told by a specialist there that earlier care might have produced a better outcome.
“I have lost my husband and my best friend (to cancer) and I can’t believe it’s because of geography,” McCabe said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this. I don’t want anyone else to die.”
She complained to St. Joseph’s Health Care several months after her husband’s death and received a written reply a week ago.


The letter from St. Joseph’s confirms the hospital draws lines about who is treated there based on a “repatriation policy.”

The policy means that patients are to receive care within their own geographic territory if it’s available there, said Kathy Burrill, the hospital’s director of communications and public affairs.
She acknowledged Sarnia-Lambton has historically looked to London for specialized health care, but the provincial government has a new “thrust” to have care provided to patients as close to their homes as possible, she said.
“That’s not to say we wouldn’t care for someone outside our LHIN, but the trend is to try to have specialty services provided within your own LHIN.”
St. Joseph’s Health Care’s role has been “in transition” the past five to 10 years, and referring physicians in communities like Sarnia-Lambton are supposed to know about the repatriation policy, Burrill said.
St. Joseph’s is also changing into an ambulatory care centre, from than an acute care centre, and isn’t seeing as many seriously-ill patients, she added.
In those cases, the referring physician is to make a referral to London Health Sciences Centre where more critical patients are treated.
Over the next few years more changes will take place related to these policies, Burrill said.
In McCabe’s case, she said, “I believe we acted within the scope of our mandate and in response to what’s available in the local community.
“The referring physician is the person responsible for getting the appropriate care. It’s incumbent on care providers to remain clear on where appropriate service is,” Burrill said.
It’s up to the LHINs to work with community physicians and ensure they understand the province’s “thrust,” she added.
Ralph Ganter of the Erie-St. Clair LHIN to which Sarnia-Lambton belongs, said he isn’t aware of any repatriation policies for diagnostic procedures.
“We’re supposed to be a seamless, borderless health care system,” Ganter said. “We’re not trying to put fences up around care.”
He said he intends to investigate the McCabe case.
On Friday, Adrien McCabe took her story to Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey.
“You would have been better off driving to London and taking a room there so that there would be no geographic barriers,” Bailey told McCabe. “This is very disappointing, and your family has paid the ultimate price.”
Bailey said he’s never heard of a repatriation policy but that it should be changed if it does exist.
He intends to raise the question in the legislature on Wednesday and talk to the Minister of Health, he said.
“You’re doing the right thing,” Bailey told McCabe. “You’re doing something good so that Allister’s death wasn’t all for naught.”