Program for chronically ill Ontarians shuts down after province fails to renew funding

A program aimed at improving the lives of patients in the London region, and beyond, living with chronic illnesses has ended as the province failed to renew it’s funding on time. It’ll subsequently affect thousands of patients across the province.

The provincial government is being accused of ‘dragging its feet’

Best Care aims to improve the lives of patients in London and beyond. (Colin Butler/CBC)

A program aimed at improving the lives of patients living with chronic illnesses in the London, Ont., region has ended after the province failed to renew its funding on time.

The shut down will affect thousands of patients across the province. 

Funding for the Best Care program came to an end on Mar. 31. The program tried to get help for people living with atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure and chronic asthma by making sure patients got the care they needed. It also focused on people's psychological, biological and social needs.

"There are very few programs that are like Best Care," said Dr. Christopher Licskai, the CEO of the program. "It is really an effective chronic disease management program. It tailors to the highest risk and most vulnerable patients." 

Christopher Licskai, the CEO of Best Care, is still optimistic that funding may come to support the program. (Submitted by Christopher Licskai)

"We are servicing people who have high needs," he said.

"Team-based care for chronic disease management is really the way to go. These are individuals that require the highly competent primary care physician who is supported by a team built around him or her." 

The program has approximately 35 educators who worked with 925 primary care doctors in the province, and they've cared for about 10,000 patients in the last three years alone. The program ending not only means that access will be cut to patients, but staff will be out of work too. 

Despite this, Licskai hasn't lost hope yet. 

"We have been innovative from the beginning, and we remain optimistic that sustainable funding will come," said Licskai. "We're looking forward to an ongoing relationship with Ontario and Ontarians to deliver the most effective primary care possible." 

'Dragging its feet' 

MPP Peggy Sattler has been an advocate for the program. (Colin Butler)

Peggy Sattler, London West's MPP with the New Democratic Party, has been an advocate for the renewal of funding for this program. 

She heard that "active conversations" are happening within provincial government, despite the funding ending last month. "I can't believe that the government is dragging its feet on extending this program," she said. 

"Every day that it remains in place, the board of directors is on the hook financially and they also have these legal severance obligations that require termination notices to go out," Sattler added. 

"Just these vague, vague assurances: 'Oh, yeah, we think it's a good program and we want to see it continue,' that's not enough."