Montreal’s health agency insists patients are free to be treated at the hospital of their choice, but one Lachute woman says that's not the message she got from her oncologist at a Montreal hospital.

' This is your life on the line,' - Nina Wozniak, Lachute woman with cancer

Nina Wozniak, who lives in Lachute about 85 kilometres northwest of Montreal, was diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks ago and wants to be treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal.

St. Mary’s has been my hospital since I was born. It’s the only hospital that has my records...It was only logical when you have a life-threatening situation, that you’d want to go to where they know you best. This is your life on the line,” Wozniak said.

Woznaik started her treatments at St. Mary’s, but says her oncologist warned her that she may have to get her treatment closer to her home.

“I was upset. Here I am, I have just discovered I have cancer and I’m being told...I won’t be able to be treated come April 1?”

Montreal's health and social services agency has a policy in place that requires doctors at some Montreal hospitals to inform off-island patients about treatments available closer to their homes.

All patients welcome

Officials at St. Mary's say the directive doesn't apply there — and Wozniak can continue her treatments.


Lucy Opatrny of St. Mary's Hopsital says all patients can receive cancer treatment there, even if they live off-island. (CBC)

“Here at St. Mary's Hospital, we certainly welcome all patients — not only oncology but all patients — whether they be on the island or off-island,” said Dr. Lucie Opatrny , St. Mary’s Hospital’s Vice-President of Professional Services.

The health ministry insists that all patients, no matter where they live, have the right to be treated at the hospital of their choice.

Montreal's Health and Social Services Agency says the policy was put in place to ensure the budgets of cancer-treatment centres are allocated fairly.

“From the 450 area [code], 4,500 people are coming to Montreal for radiotherapy. We are not going to try to stop that. The idea is to make sure each hospital has fair resources according to the patients they have,”  said Dr. Jean Latreille, director at the Quebec Directorate of Cancerology.

But Latreille admits the directive is causing confusion among patients and doctors.

“I was surprised and then shocked. This was never the intention of the government,” he said.

Officials says that in the coming weeks, the health agency will meet with Montreal hospital managers and their radio-oncology departments to clarify the issue.