Last Wednesday you published my comments about travel grants. On Friday, I was stopped in the clinic by a very irate patient who had just had a travel grant refused.
I will not mention names for reasons of confidentiality. I do have permission, from him and his wife, to name names if the accuracy of this account is questioned.
The ministry position is that they will not pay travel grants to physicians not possessing the Fellowship of the Canadian Colleges, since they are not specialists. The physician in question was Dr. Duncan Scurrah, a well-known surgeon in Winnipeg, who does possess the Canadian Fellowship.
The ministry then fell back on Plan B to justify their refusal. Plan B states that there will be no payment if there are equivalent services available in Fort Frances, or that there will be a smaller payment for travel to a nearer centre such as Jaffray-Melick.
The patient in question has a rare condition where chronic intermittent bleeding occurs from small enlarged blood vessels scattered throughout the bowel. These are called telangectasia, and resemble the enlarged small vessels some people have on their face. They are difficult to locate or treat in the bowel.
This patient has been seen by specialists in Toronto and the Mayo Clinic, and has been seen and treated by both of our local surgeons.
After discussion with them, I had a telephone consultation with a widely-respected gastroenterologist in Winnipeg regarding the possibility of laser coagulation of the bleeding vessels.
He stated, I assume correctly, that the only physician with suitable equipment in Manitoba was Dr. Scurrah, who subsequently was unsuccessful in an attempt to use this treatment modality.
The lack of success was for very good reason and no fault of Dr. Scurrah. Surgery, performed by Dr. Spencer in Fort Frances, was later required as a matter of urgency to correct the problem responsible for the failure.
What we have then is a patient, who has been assured by successive governments that financial support will be provided to access essential treatment which is not available locally, who has been denied that financial support when seeking such treatment.
Understandably, her husband is annoyed.
He complained to me about it and I took the time to dictate a letter to the ministry, with the usual copies to the minister and to Mr. Hampton. This took time and resulted in delay, so that everyone in my waiting room on Friday was probably equally annoyed.
I am a “new Canadian” but a native Australian, so my first coherent spoken word was probably “bloodybureaucrat.” It is offensive to me that some chronically-stupid bureaucrat can interfere with the well-being of patients.
It also offends me that chronically-incompetent political parties allow such interference.
Under the governance of all three of the major parties, the Ministry of Health in Ontario has attempted to usurp the right of the Province of Manitoba to define who is, or is not, a specialist in that province.
Australians are fined if they fail to vote. From habit and conviction, I vote in every election, and have voted for all three political parties at various times.
The candidate I vote for on this occasion will be the one who understands that local issues are important—and understands very clearly that the Ministry of Health of Ontario has no business in deciding the specialty requirements of the Province of Manitoba.
I also expect them to understand that actual harm results to local patients from such foolishness and want to hear what they will do, if elected, to end it.
I hope that others will join me.
Dr. B.T. Johnstone
Fort Frances, Ont.