No surgeon available, patient airlifted to Buffalo

No surgeon available, patient airlifted to Buffalo

More than $100 million a year goes to U.S. for medical care for Canadians

By KEVIN CONNOR, Toronto Sun

Last Updated: May 11, 2010 8:24pm

Joan King had to be rushed to a Buffalo hospital for surgery because there was no spot for her in Ontario.
Joan King had to be rushed to a Buffalo hospital for surgery because there was no spot for her in Ontario.

Joan King, 74, had a life-threatening brain aneurysm on Sunday, but no doctor in the province was available to treat her.

After a futile check with several hospitals, the Mississauga woman had to be airlifted to Buffalo for emergency surgery.

King is one of thousands of Ontario patients who are sent to the U.S. for health care — at a price to the taxpayer of more than $100 million a year, according to the Ministry of Health.


King’s daughter-in-law, Charmane Burton, said she was in shock that not one single doctor in the province was available.

She said the money spent on sending patients to the U.S. should be spent on hiring more doctors in Ontario.

“It all started after we had my mother-in-law over for dinner on Mother’s Day,” Burton said Tuesday.

“When she was going home she bent over to put on her shoes and it was like a bomb went off in her head and we called 911. She was taken to Credit Valley Hospital for a CT scan and they found two aneurisms that had erupted.

“Credit Valley didn’t have a neurosurgeon and neither did Trillium Hospital. There was one at Toronto Western but he was in surgery. Then 40 minutes later we found out there wasn’t a bed there and they couldn’t take her.

“We were told if we wait she was going to die because it was a massive hemorrhage. We were told … the closest hospital that could take her was in Buffalo.”

The family was told OHIP would cover the cost of the surgery and treatment in the U.S.

Luckily, King had a valid passport and she was airlifted to Buffalo’s Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital.

“Thank God she had a passport,” Burton said. “Not all of us did. (Other family members) drove to Buffalo and were shocked because we got there before she did — easily a half an hour before she did. We were shocked because time was of the essence. She could have passed away it was so serious.

“We are told she has a 50/50 chance — and that is if she does well in recovery. People think we have this great health care system because it is paid for, but what good is it if there are no doctors? How is this possible? In the U.S. the price of health care is astronomical, but at least they have doctors.”

Wendy Johnson at Credit Valley says the hospital doesn’t perform neurosurgery.

“It was clear she was going to need neurosurgery, so we called Trillium Hospital, who we partner with, but they couldn’t accommodate her either,” Johnson said. “We called CritiCall Ontario to ask where this patient could be placed. It was a very unfortunate situation because no hospitals in the province could take her. Now the Ministry of Health is looking into the situation and the capacity throughout the province.”

The Ministry of Health is aware of the Burton family’s complaint, but won’t comment on the situation because of patient confidentiality rules.

Last month, another Ontario woman, Dorothy Neal, died and it was her wish to donate her organs.

She was kept on life support for days but no surgeon could be found to harvest her organs — that could have saved seven lives — and the hospital pulled the plug and let her die.

One response

again, not the first time…. we demonize the Americans but we’re not above taking advantage of them. Yes, there are problems in the US – no one’s denying that.

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