"We're that face of vascular surgery"
© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
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."