Earlier today, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre welcomed a site visit from the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and MPP for Kenora—Rainy River. Minister Rickford visited to applaud our Hospital’s advancements in comprehensive cardiovascular care and reaffirm the Government of Ontario’s commitment to establish a full cardiovascular surgery program for the patients of Northwestern Ontario.
“Our government is proud to invest in high-quality care closer to home for the people of Northwestern Ontario,” said Minister Rickford. “The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is a hub of medical excellence in Northwestern Ontario, and with our government’s support will now offer expanded cardiovascular surgical services, bringing life-saving care to our region.”
In addition to surge funding provided by the province to address urgent priorities and support regular pressures, the Government has announced today an additional $690,000 one-time funding envelope from the Government of Ontario to ensure patients in Northwestern Ontario continue receiving closer-to-home cardiovascular care. Since 2017, over 1,300 patients have accessed that care, including 600 vascular surgeries and interventional procedures performed in the angiography suite.
“Providing safe quality, life-saving care closer to home is our goal, and the financial support from our government is vital to achieve it,” said Jean Bartkowiak, President and CEO of the Hospital and CEO of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute. “We also thank the Ontario Government for their support and additional funding increases to support our Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
Vascular surgeons treat diseases of the vascular system (i.e. arteries and veins outside the brain and heart). They treat patients with poor circulation in their lower extremities by providing angioplasty or surgery to open blocked vessels, which is vital to avoid amputations. They also repair aortic aneurysms, both by open surgery or performing minimally-invasive endovascular techniques with access via the femoral artery in the groin.
Previously, patients who required vascular surgery had to be transferred to hospitals outside of Northwestern Ontario for treatment. Now, these frequently urgent procedures are provided at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
A full cardiovascular surgery program at our Hospital will have an even bigger impact on patient care in our region. Each year, approximately 300 patients from Northwestern Ontario are referred to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the University Health Network to receive cardiac surgery. Future investment for cardiac surgery at our Hospital will allow the Hospital to provide this life saving care closer to home.
“A full cardiovascular surgery program at our Hospital will allow patients in Northwestern Ontario to be provided with the same quality cardiovascular care as they would in Southern Ontario, but without the added stress and expense of having to travel,” said Bartkowiak. “It also enables patients living in Northwestern Ontario to receive the life-saving procedures they need in a community that is more sensitive to their needs and more familiar with their circumstances.”
“Northwestern Ontario is a region where a large percentage of the population faces serious medical issues including high rates of cardiac disease, the highest rates of amputation in the province, along with high rates of diabetes and stroke. Local access to cardiovascular surgery services is critical to save both lives and limbs,” commented Kyle Shaen, Chair, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation. “The funding commitment by the Government of Ontario, along with the financial support of our generous community, will ensure we have better cardiovascular care here at home.”