Volume 95, Issue 14

Tuesday, September 25, 2001
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Psychic: Davenport was reincarnated

MD exit leaves children at risk

Dion says Liberals love Ontario loyalty

Fancy new job program fails to impress Ivey folks

Drowned man turns up high and dry

MD exit leaves children at risk

By Kristina Lundblad
Gazette Staff

London's only pediatric cardiac surgeon is leaving Ontario for what he believes to be greener, better funded pastures.

John Lee, one of only 15 pediatric cardiac surgeons in all of Canada, will abandon his practice at London's Children's Hospital of Western Ontario on Oct. 31 and head for Halifax.

Currently, in addition to Lee, there are five pediatric cardiac surgeons in Ontario – three in Toronto and two in Ottawa.

"It's very complex, but I'm looking for a more stable program that offers a more stable commitment," Lee said. "In London, there are many uncertainties in the medical community because the whole institution is scoping and sizing and until that is done, we have no idea which program will be cut or not."

Families in London are now concerned because patients will have to be transferred to either Toronto or Ottawa, which could put children at risk, Lee said. "The public will suffer the most and I am most saddened for the families of the region."

"It's a shame," said Gord Haugh, press secretary to the Minister of Health. "We'll move heaven and earth to get a child to the next centre."

"There are 16 medical schools in Canada and the majority of them don't have pediatric congenital heart surgeon programs," said Tim Frewen, pediatrician-in-chief at CHWO, noting the lack of such specialized surgeons.

London must now look to the future to determine what its priorities are in the medical community, Haugh said.

"This is a very tough position for London," he said, explaining that Lee's departure will affect the recently initiated program, which is only three-years-old and starting to mature.

"We have to stop competing on dollars. We don't want to start a bidding war," Haugh said, noting the competition between cities like London and Halifax.

With Lee's exit, Frewen said, the number of children that can receive specialized clinical care is drastically reduced, making London a less attractive medical community. "We must develop other strategies to make this community an attractive place."

Lee agreed. "They must now look to the future – what will the government do now?"

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Copyright The Gazette 2001