Island couple suggests patients enter debate on future of service

Mitch MacDonald
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"We're that face of vascular surgery"

Kier Jones and Marion Flood-Jones are two Islanders hoping that vascular services will return to the province. Jones, a vascular patient in P.E.I. since 1999, still wonders whether his leg would have been amputated in Aug. 2012 if the province had kept the service.

Kier Jones and Marion Flood-Jones know firsthand the difficult journey that vascular patients from P.E.I. now face.

The North River couple is hoping for consultations between governments, surgeons, health care representatives and, most importantly, patients to find a way to return vascular services to the province.

"We always said if we could give our voice to the importance of vascular surgery on P.E.I. we would do that," said Flood-Jones, who shared her view in a letter to the editor published on Saturday.  "I think we need to share our journey because we are vascular surgery. We're that face of vascular surgery."

Jones, a vascular patient, had his lower right leg amputated in Aug. 2012 during his third trip to Halifax, where surgeries for Island patients are now performed.

The couple feels there is a strong possibility the amputation may have never taken place if the service was still offered on P.E.I.

They're hoping to prevent future patients from wondering the same thought.

"We're not trying to point a finger or blame anyone," said Jones. "I just don't feel it's a good situation for the Island."

The provincial government and Health P.E.I. are close to making a decision on whether vascular surgeries will continue in Halifax.

That has been required since the province's lone vascular surgeon Dr. Peter Midgley left in 2012 for Nova Scotia because he couldn't keep up with the workload and was turned down on his request to hire another surgeon.

Jones, who has been a vascular patient since 1999, was originally a patient of Dr. Kenneth Grant.

In the early 2000s, Jones had a problem with one of his toes and faced a possible amputation.

However, a quick response made the difference.

"He admitted Kier right away that day to the QEH," said Flood-Jones. "He did surgery within a day or two and he was able to save everything. His toe and foot.

"We were given a miracle."

The couple, who were initially hesitant to share their story but felt compelled to give Islanders a patient's perspective, still wonder whether that same timeliness would have made a difference in 2012.

While there is general agreement that costs for two surgeons on P.E.I. are on par to maintaining the status quo of Islanders going to Halifax, the Physician Resource Planning Committee and Provincial Medical Advisory Committee have both recommended the services be relocated permanently to Halifax.

Dr. David Bannon, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., wrote in a commentary published in Saturday's Guardian that the system must question what services can be provided to the province's small population and what must be referred to off-Island centers.

Supporting the committees' stance, Bannon, said the relationship between volume of surgeries and outcome also must be examined.

"Emergency departments that see low volumes of critical conditions cannot replicate the quality of care you would receive at higher volume emergency departments," he said. "As residents of a province with a small population, we need to understand that in many medical services, bigger is indeed better."

While Jones and Flood-Jones both praised staff at the Halifax hospital, they said workers were notably taxed by the P.E.I. referrals contributing to an already large workload.

Flood-Jones added that the stays in Halifax, one lasting over three weeks, also made it tough logistically for visits from family and friends.

All expenses for travel, accommodations and meals are borne by the patient.

For patients, the ride and stay in Halifax while facing vascular pain can also be crippling.

"There's no other pain like it (vascular pain)," said Jones. "And I don't think you realize the amount of patients involved until you get over to Halifax and see how many Islanders are over there."

With some historical data indicating a higher amputation rate when surgeries were performed in Halifax, Flood-Jones also questioned the extra costs included for rehab services and other amputee programs for when the patients return to P.E.I.

Flood-Jones said finger-pointing and politics have no place in finding a solution.

Rather, solving the dilemma will require a collaboration between wound care specialists, rehab staff, surgeons, patients, the government and others involved, she said.

"We always believe there's a way for things to come together," she said. "The folks that deal with this every day have much to offer along with the personal experience of a patient. I know we're in a very (tight) fiscal time... But people can still sit down and come to the table to work together."

Organizations: Physician Resource Planning Committee, Provincial Medical Advisory Committee, Medical Society Halifax hospital

Geographic location: P.E.I., Halifax, Iceland The North River Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • blah
    January 27, 2014 - 13:00

    Another sterling example of our outstandingly inadequate health care system. Like some of those who commented previously, I do not believe that this government nor the management of health PEI truly care about Islanders. They make their quips for the media, they give token platitudes, but if you look through the veil at the reality of the situation, if you begin to dissect some of their comments, their arrogance, haughtiness and lack of general human compassion shine through rather brilliantly. While I respect a great many on the front line, although there are a great many more I am disgusted by, health care by and large in this province is disgusting, frustrating, inadequate, pathetic and cruel. I know I for one have suffered immeasurably under their "care".

  • Sylvia Magnotta
    January 27, 2014 - 12:52

    I sympathize and understand where you are coming from....there are not enough doctors/specialists to handle all the patients on the Island. Our health care system is in serious trouble. The bureaucratics/government officials and the doctors need to listen to the people at the front lines that are doing some of this patient care and they will tell you the truth. Not only that, seniors are waiting in hospitals at their own expense while waiting for Nursing Home Beds up to at the very least 6 months. Where is the long term planning??

  • Terri Cook
    January 27, 2014 - 09:44

    Thank you Mr & Mrs Jones. You are so right about involving the patients along with their family members that care for them in this debate. There are the past, the present and the future patients that have personal stories & voices that should be heard when making final decisions on matters such as this. We do need, and deseverve to have a Vascular Surgeon on PEI. Our family is very thanful for Dr Midgley, along with the Halifax Vascular team, Nurses and staff that our fathers feet and legs were saved from being amputated and the care provided. One thing I have learned is that you have to be your own advocate and stand up for what you believe in. Pointing fingers is not the answer. Coming together to find a solution where everyone is the winner is the answer. No one should ever have to lose a limb, etc. as a result of not having a vascular surgeon here on a fulltime basis to oversee serious health issues. I have great respect for Dr Midgley, the Vascular team along with the Hospital staff in Halifax for the care they provide. But honestly feel from experience that we are in dire need of having a Vascular surgeon here on PEI . Time can be a very crucial factor when there is an emergency where a vascular surgeon is needed immediately to save a life or a limb. I would be interested in hearing how much money our Gov't spent from 2012 until today for Islanders to receive Medical care in Halifax. Now let's remember this total would not include the out of pocket costs for the patients and their families for accommadations, food, bridge fares, gas, loss of time from work, stress on patients and family care givers. etc. I think it is a great idea for Premier Ghiz, Health PEI, and Mr Currie to arrange a public meeting to allow the Islanders voices to be heard. Wishing you the very best.

  • Quiet Observer
    January 27, 2014 - 07:47

    I just read Bannon's editorial. Based on that, he must be saying that the level of vascular surgery/services provided historically on PEI by Dr. Grant and Dr,. Midgely was sub par. I do not think that Dr. Grant or Dr. Midgely would appreciate that insinuation. I also don't think any of the patients that either of these two doctors helped would agree with that. But, this is the arrogance of the Medical Society and those governing the PEI medical system possess.

  • Quiet Observer
    January 27, 2014 - 07:37

    This is the one side of the equation that is being ignored in this decision. Doctors are consulted, hospital is consulted, Currie and his staff are consulted. But, who is consulting with patients, with the people who are most affected by this decision? The quality of care and life of patients seems to be of the lowest interest with those making these decisions. The decisions are made in a cocoon, blocking pout what the people of PEI want, no, what the people of PEI need. There is a significant cost dumped in Islanders for travel/accommodations/meals for patients and loved ones, as well as considerable delays and difficulties for the patients. But those making the decision do not seems to care about what Islanders of low and medium incomes suffer. But that has been the trademark of the Ghiz government (have you ever noticed how much the Ghiz government acts and performs just like the Harper government?). I wish we had Recall legislation on PEI.

  • Bob MacDonald
    January 27, 2014 - 06:37

    The biggest problem we face is that people think health care if free and it's not. The government is really no different than any of us and they have to find a way to live within their means. Health care costs are simply outpacing the governments means of paying for them.

    • voter
      January 27, 2014 - 12:58

      what is more important than a life? the time needed to get me to halifax if my aneurism busts is a death sentence

    • to voter
      January 27, 2014 - 13:15

      If you aren't in Charlottetown, you are told to shut up and move if you want health care. I find it hard to have sympathy for townies over this issue. Not that I minimize it, but there is little sympathy for rural islanders.

  • Glady M. MacKay
    January 27, 2014 - 05:33

    I believe that Dr. Peter Midgley should be put back on staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I believe it was Dr. Wedge that said that there is very little difference in the cost between having vascular patients operated on in Halifax as opposed to be operated in Halifax. I do not believe that. We need Dr. Midgley back here, if he is willing to come back.

  • voter
    January 27, 2014 - 03:58

    time is the difference between life and death -- how dare politicians and beareaucrats take on such important decisions such is not their realm !!!

  • D. W. Turner
    January 26, 2014 - 22:22

    I certainly can understand the Vascular issue. There are others situations. I have been shipped to Halifax 3 times in 3 weeks for Kidney Stone Treatment , because we have now only one Urerolgist and NOT two , like a few months ago Atover $350.00 for a 1 night stay this is very expensive. Other Dr,s are saying we need two more