Patients locked out of 3 Ontario sleep clinics after waiting months for treatment
People treated at the Kitchener, Cambridge and London Sleep Centre want answers about patient records
Three privately-owned, publicly funded sleep clinics in London, Kitchener and Cambridge have abruptly shut their doors leaving patients with questions about their medical records and future treatment options.
Referring doctors were not told of the KCL Sleep Centre closings and patients have been arriving at the doors, some having waited months for an appointment.
"Please be advised that the London Sleep Centre has been closed, due to unforeseen circumstances. No further studies or appointments will be conducted, at this time," the notice on the door of the clinic, at 1408 Ernest Ave. in London, states.
All three clinics have had trouble before — in 2015 the doctor who ran them, Dr. Wagdy A. Botros, was deemed incompetent by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and banned from practicing sleep medicine. Botros faces more allegations of "disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct" from the college. His first hearing is in January.
The current shut-down is on the radar of government officials after it received calls from physicians, though as of Thursday it had not determined why the clinics were closed.
"We have written to the licensee seeking the status of any sleep study interpretations recently conducted, and have also requested that the licensee identify an individual with contact information for the ministry to obtain patient records if required," Ministry of Health and Long Term Care spokesperson David Jensen wrote in an email.
"The ministry is awaiting a response from the licensee."
CBC News has tried multiple times to contact the physicians listed with the clinics, including the owner of the three buildings where the clinics are located — Dr. Wagdy Botros — but messages have not been returned.
On the Sleep Centre website, shared by all three locations, there is no mention that the clinics have shut down.
Impact on patients unknown
The closure of the three clinics leaves sleepless patients in southwestern Ontario with few sleep medicine options.
There are other sleep clinics in Kitchener, as well as in Paris. London's only other sleep medicine clinic is located at the London Health Sciences Centre. A clinic in St. Thomas closed last year.
"It's hard to know what the impact will be. We've been very busy even before St. Thomas closed," said Dr. Charles George, a leading sleep doctor and researcher who works at the LHSC clinic.
"I don't know how many patients that (London) clinic looked after. If they looked after as many as we did, that would become an issue."
The LHSC clinic gets about 350 referrals a month and prioritizes them based on need. Some people wait up to a year for the clinic, others several months.
Private health facilities are licensed by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and are inspected by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. All three closed sleep clinics were last inspected in 2016 and deemed to have "met standards" in February 2017.
Calls unreturned, future uncertain
Multiple calls to Dr. Howard Awad, who is listed as the medical director of the quality advisor of the Kitchener, Cambridge and London Sleep Centres, have also not been returned.
A man who answered the phone number listed for Botros on the CPSO website said Botros was unavailable and unwilling to speak to a reporter. He added that the clinics have been closed temporarily and will try to reopen.
All three of the buildings in which the clinics are located are owned by Paner House III, a corporation whose listed owner is Wagdy A. Botros, government records show.
Botros was the subject of a high-profile shutdown of his practice in sleep medicine in 2015, but the college's ruling doesn't prohibit Botros from owning clinics or from practicing psychiatry.
Botros is to go before the College of Physicians and Surgeons discipline board again in January and in March, with regards to "disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct" between 2014 and 2016. Those allegations have not been tested in court.