Patients in limbo after neurologist's funding cut

A specialist in Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases says he may no longer be able to care for patients in northeastern Ontario, putting treatment for about 70 people up in the air.

Huntington-Parkinson's doctor's practice doesn't 'align' with Ontario's physcian funding approach

A specialist in Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases says he may no longer be able to care for patients in northeastern Ontario, putting treatment for about 70 people up in the air.

Dr. Mark Guttman, a neurologist specializing in neurodegenerative diseases, says the the provincial health ministry has cut his funding.

Guttman founded a clinic in Markham that employs other support staff for his patients, enabling him to travel to Sudbury and North Bay twice a year — which he has done for about 12 years.

He hired nurses in North Bay and a social worker in Sudbury to provide team coverage in the north, and uses telemedicine for patients farther north.

But no longer. His clinic, known as the Centre for Movement Disorders, will close Aug. 31 and 10 people will be laid off.

"They used the term we were a square peg in a round hole ... we were an innovative program," Guttman said.

A Ministry of Health written statement on the matter says the way the clinic was funded does not align with the province's current approach to funding physician services.

Guttman will be reduced to being one doctor doing his practice, which means no extra support for clients and he may not be able to travel to the north.

The news is upsetting to people like Nora Lea Arcand, who has Parkinson's and is with a support group in Sudbury.

"I think … there will be a devastating impact because they are so used to having the multidisciplinary service," she said.

Arcand said the wait for a neurologist in Sudbury is one year, or two years for one that specializes in Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases.

The cut in funding came as a surprise to Guttman who said a study has shown his patients live longer than the average, and his care saved the province money.

"It showed our hospitalization, length of stay, was reduced," he said.

"And we estimated, after paying all of our costs, we saved the government $2.5 million."

Statement from Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care:

The way in which Centre for Movement Disorders was funded does not align with the government’s current approach for funding physician services elsewhere in Ontario.

Over its funding history, the ministry has asked the Centre for Movement Disorders to explore options to align and leverage its program with the existing health system.   The Centre for Movement Disorders has not identified an appropriate governance structure nor has it been successful in aligning its program with existing programs.

An extension of temporary funding for 5 months up to August 31, 2013 was given to ensure continued services to patients while the Centre for Movement Disorders determines how it can develop partnerships to continue to provide the services without further funding from the ministry, or, how it can transfer the services to other providers.

The ministry continues to encourage the Centre for Movement Disorders to continue to explore ways to serve patients, either directly or by referring patients to the most appropriate providers for their service needs.  It is the ministry’s expectation that the Centre for Movement Disorders will ensure all current patients are referred to appropriate service providers so their treatment can continue without interruption.

It is the ministry’s understanding that the specialists will continue to provide neurology services to existing patients at the current clinic location following closure of the Centre for Movement Disorders.

Source: Joanne Woodward Fraser, senior communications advisor, Media Communications and Marketing Division, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care