A Toronto-area doctor is guaranteeing care for his Huntington's and Parkinson's patients in the north, despite a move by the provincial health ministry to cut funding for services benefitting those patients.

Dr. Mark Guttman, who runs the Centre for Movement Disorders in Toronto, travels twice a year to see about 70 patients in the near north — including Sudbury and North Bay.

The health ministry has cut funding for the doctor's travel, clinic staff and an affiliated nurse in North Bay.

'I'm guaranteeing I'm coming up' —Dr. Mark Guttman, Centre for Movement Disorders in Toronto

In a statement, the ministry said the way the centre was funded wasn't in line with how physicians are funded elsewhere in Ontario.

Guttman said he won't let his northern patients down and is "planning a full three-day clinic between North Bay, Sturgeon Falls and Sudbury … I'm guaranteeing I'm coming up."

Guttman said he'll either pay out of his own pocket or find research dollars for the trip.

In Sudbury, a social worker affiliated with the clinic, says she and a nurse in North Bay, who look after patients in between the doctor's trips, will have all or part of their salaries covered by the Huntington’s Society.

Angele Benard's entire salary is funded by the Huntington's Society already — and 20 per cent of Francine Robert's salary will now be paid by the society as well.

"So that's why the Huntington's Society chose to step and continue these services for these families so that they have that continued support," Benard said.

The Huntington's Society says it is committed to help fund the nurse's job for a year with the hope the province will recognize the need.

Guttman said a charity shouldn't have to pick up the tab.

"I think this is not what patients expect or deserve in our universal health care system," he said.

Statement from the Ontario Ministry of Health

The ministry recognizes the challenges that people with Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurological disorders face in living with the effects of these diseases. Under an old arrangement, the physicians at the Centre for Movement Disorders Clinic were billing OHIP on a fee-for-service basis and were also receiving funding for overhead and other services within the clinic.

While there are several movement disorder clinics in Ontario, the CMD was the only one operating with this type of funding arrangement. The Ministry worked with CMD to explore several options to align its programs with how we fund physician services.

An extension of funding was given to CMD with the expectation that it would work to develop an appropriate model for service delivery, governance structure and accountability. While the Centre for Movement Disorders explored a number of options, none of these fit within the ministry’s funding programs, and the ministry could not continue to fund the clinic under its original arrangement.

While the Ministry is not providing funding under the old arrangement, the physicians could still bill OHIP on a fee-for-service basis for the care provided within their clinic. The ministry continues to remain open to working with the physicians to explore models that are consistent with our existing funding models.

Ultimately it is up to the physicians to decide whether or not they would like to continue to provide service. It has been the ministry’s expectation that the Centre for Movement Disorders would refer its patients to appropriate health care providers to ensure that patients who require care will continue to receive the care that they need going forward.

The ministry continues to provide funding for a variety of services and resources which provide care, support, and therapies for the people of Ontario living with neurological conditions, and their caregivers. Two of these in the Greater Toronto Area are the Shulman Movement Disorders Clinic, which is a multidisciplinary clinic at the Toronto Western Hospital, and the Parkinson Clinic of Eastern Toronto and Movement Disorder Centre at the Rouge Valley Hospital in Toronto, which also provides services using a multidisciplinary team approach.