Maureen Kennah-Hafstein plans to continue her fight to get increased funding from the B.C. Government for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)

B.C. health minister offers no remedy for surgical wait time

Parkinson’s patient continues quest for province to fund more procedures

It appears Maureen Hafstein and other Parkinson’s patients like her will continue to wait on one of the longest lists in the country for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery, despite the fact that the waiting may make them miss their chance at the procedure altogether.

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo said after repeatedly being told Health Minister Adrian Dix would get back to him last week, he informed the Observer he had heard from Dix on Monday morning.

“He was careful in his comments, saying that the health authorities are allocated base funding for surgeries and they are in the best position to make the determination about where there are the greatest pressures and the greatest needs,” said Kyllo.

Kyllo says the argument that health-care decisions should not be coming from government is valid, but he notes there have been a number of cases where governments have become involved in such decisions.

He points to the situation where the government is providing targeted health-care funding specifically for performing hip and knee replacement surgeries and reducing wait times.

“He reluctantly agreed there was a decision made to target those wait times,” Kyllo said. “It’s kind of like picking winners and losers here.”

Dix’s office did not respond to the Observer’s request for an interview.

Meanwhile Hafstein says she is not giving up in her quest to bring attention to the wait list issue for Parkinson’s patients throughout B.C.

“To think that a province of our size has only one surgeon… The people of B.C. deserve better from our medical system. I will pursue the option of going out of province for surgery if I have to,” Hafstein said by text, as her Parkinson’s impairs her ability to speak.

Related link: Salmon Arm woman fights for a life-changing surgery

Dix’s office gave an email address for the chief of surgery at Vancouver General to Kyllo to give to Hafstein and suggested she take her case to him. But Hafstein isn’t sure this would change anything and says solving her own issue won’t help the other patients still waiting on the list.

“I want to be clear that I am not wanting to jump ahead of anyone in line. I am asking for increased funding so that everyone will benefit,” she said.

Hafstein plans to continue her letter-writing campaign and is still going to try and arrange a face-to-face meeting with Dix to discuss the situation.

Kyllo says the DBS surgery in B.C. is funded at a cost of approximately $1 million a year.

Only one doctor in B.C., Dr. Christopher Honey, is currently performing the procedure at either Vancouver General or UBC. This compares to Alberta, which has two surgeons performing DBS, Quebec has four, Manitoba has two and Saskatchewan has two. The Canadian average for DBS surgery is one surgeon for every two million people. In B.C. the rate is one surgeon for 4.5 million.

Parkinson’s Disease is a complex degenerative brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to move. While DBS is not a cure, it can provide a significant impact on the patient’s health and quality of life — often helping to slow the progression of the disease for many years. For the DBS surgery to have benefits, it must be done within a certain window of time. If the patient’s symptoms become too severe, the operation no longer has a good chance of success and those patients become no longer eligible for the procedure.

Related Link: In this corner, hope

Currently, Honey says most of his patients are waiting two years and he notes the B.C. standard target for surgical wait time is supposed to be 26 weeks.

Honey has trained another surgeon to perform DBS surgery, but without funding from the government for this surgeon and for equipping another operating room, no additional DBS procedures can be scheduled.

Honey says lobbying for additional funding has been an education in the political system.

“My patients, you see, have very complex medical needs and many of them are simply too ill to advocate for themselves. They are quiet and suffer mostly in silence… There’s only about 70 to 80 people I see each year. Any politician can afford to lose 70 to 80 votes.”


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Comox airport’s Make-A-Wish send-off fit for a galaxy not so far away

Mattias Beck, 15, received an extra special start for Make-A-Wish trip

PHOTOS: Iconic aircraft at 19 Wing Comox entrance undergoes facelift

PHOTOS: Iconic aircraft at 19 Wing Comox entrance undergoes facelift

North Island Fiddlers hosting Spring Fling in Royston

Groundhog Day is long past, and Valentine’s Day has come and gone,… Continue reading

Comox Valley Citizens on Patrol celebrates 25 years of service

Comox Valley Citizens on Patrol Society (COPS) just celebrated its 25th year… Continue reading

Local cat rescue organization hit by camera theft

“Someone is taking from an organization trying to help cats who are surviving in the wild.”

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Comox Valley Beefs & Bouquets for week of Feb. 18

More beefs to the tip-expecting server; a bouquet to BC Transit

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

Development proposal in Courtenay stalled at third reading

A development proposal adjacent to the Crown Isle Resort and Golf Community… Continue reading

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

B.C. teacher gets 15-year ban after lying about having sex with just-graduated student

Teacher had been dishonest with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

Pipeline talks got B.C. railway open, can work again: Horgan

Premier says protest excesses damage Wet’suwet’en case

Most Read