In response to my Friday column on Health Minister Erin Selby’s comment’s about the tragic deaths of 12 infants in the pediatric cardiology surgical program at HSC in the 1990s, Donald Epp offers some great insight into the issue.
Here’s his letter:
It was with great shock and dismay that I read your article this morning regarding the uneducated comments from the Minister of Health and her reference to the Manitoba Pediatric Cardiology Inquest. It is quite clear that Minister needs a history lesson and to gain an understanding of what has occurred in health care since the 90’s when this inquest took place.
I want to make a clarification to your article. You refer to the “pediatric surgical deaths” which is not completely accurate. This was part of the pediatric “cardiology” surgical program which, as a result of the deaths and Judge Sinclair’s report, the cardiac surgery program was terminated in Winnipeg. It would seem that this is a dark stain on the history of the pediatric cardiac program but in reality it was a “wake up” call which spurred several individuals into action and resulted in a pediatric cardiology program here in Winnipeg that is a model of Family Centred Care and a god-send to families unfortunate enough to deal with life threatening cardiac issues in their children. The Variety Children’s Heart Centre is a very unique group of physicians, nurses, and allied health.
My family is one of those families unfortunate enough to have cardiac issues. My son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at the age of three weeks and we have been a frequent visitor to Variety and Children’s Hospital ever since. Our experience there has been like no other experience we have had in health care where we as parents are treated as equal partners in our son’s health care. One of the most positive results of the pediatric cardiology inquest was the participation of Winnipeg Children’s Hospital in the Western Canadian Children’s Heart Network which has allowed Manitoba children the opportunity to be treated by the very best Doctors available in Western Canada. We are given choices. Our son has had surgery in Edmonton at the Stollery Children’s Hospital but if we chose we have been given the option to send him to SickKids in Toronto or even the Mayo Clinic. Because surgical services are not offered in Manitoba we are sent to the best Doctors out there. In the words of our Cardiologist it is simply a matter of a plane ticket, and if you have to go out of province why would you not go to a specialist who has the best reputation and the highest success rate. Imagine the concept of having choice in “our” medical system. The other huge improvement that has been made in the pediatric cardiology program is that we now have 4 pediatric cardiologists in this province. In the summer of 2008, there was only one cardiologist for all of the children of Manitoba. I cannot even imagine what that was like. Since that time 3 other cardiologists have joined our program and, not to be overly biased, I would say the program is thriving. Since 2009, the pediatric heart catheterization program has restarted, which was discontinued as a result of the inquest. There is also construction currently underway to build a new operating theater for heart caths and also a facility to do pediatric cardiac MRI. These are huge advancements for the program. Imagine a “good news” story in Manitoba Health Care. I would say the provincial government could take credit for this success but in my opinion these successes have been achieved in spite of government interference. Pediatric Cardiology in Manitoba is still talked about in “hushed” tones in government circles;recalling the issues of the mid 90’s. I wish some of the politicians and bureaucrats could take a critical look at was has been going on with pediatric cardiology. They are now a model which could be emulated by so many other programs. They actively engage families in the care of their children, they demonstrate a very open and caring environment, and most importantly are effective advocates for our children. They seek out the very best care for our kids whether that be in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, or Rochester.
What frustrates me beyond belief is how a politician, a cabinet minister no less, can use a judicial inquest and the death of children to score political points. She has no idea what caring individuals can accomplish if given an opportunity. It is time that we start thinking very differently about how we deliver health care in this province and in this country. Perhaps, looking at the success of what a small clinic that is housed in the Community Services Building on William Ave can accomplish. I could introduce you to several of those successes; starting with my son.
Personally, I would like to thank Justice Sinclair and the many participants in the Pediatric Cardiology Inquest. I would especially like to thank and express condolences to families who lost their children in the early 90’s. It is this inquest that sparked a handful of people to carry on caring for pediatric cardiology patients under adverse conditions. These people laid the groundwork for a resurgent program that I am so proud to be a part of to this day. What do you say to the people who saved your son’s life? The Minister of Health needs to become part of the solution and not continuing to be part of the problem by dredging up ancient history which she does not understand.
Member Board of Trustees – Seven Oaks General Hospital
Council Member – Family Centre Care Council – Stollery Children’s Hospital
Parent Representative – Child Health Quality Council