Open Letter to Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott Minister of Health and Long Term Care, and the Ontario Government
Written April 1st, 2019
Dear Premier Ford and Minister Elliot,
I am writing to you regarding the cuts to services, particularly nerve block treatments, which will have grave repercussions for the residents of the area who rely on the quality care that INOVO Medical and the very few other chronic pain management clinics provide. Accident victims and sufferers of chronic illnesses such as Fibromyalgia are being made to suffer once more once the Government of Ontario starts to restrict nerve blocks as a treatment modality.
Ottawa is already a severely underserved area for chronic pain patients. We have been working extremely hard and have been doing our part to successfully help thousands of patients over the years, with the ultimate goal of providing pain relief for every single patient who might require it. These cuts will devastatingly make this already difficult goal, completely unattainable.
These treatments, combined with the specialized knowledge of chronic pain physicians, provide hope to many patients who have all but forgotten the meaning. It is becoming well known that there is a large gap in the medical education system when it comes to chronic pain. These physicians have dedicated years of their lives to understanding the complexities of chronic pain that these patients are facing and are often times the only ones who can shed light and offer effective therapies after their years of suffering.
Chronic pain is not only a physical effect but also a mental and financial one, too. Affecting hundreds of thousands of people across Ontario (and thousands in the Ottawa area alone), life-altering chronic pain can overcome patients to the point where they are bedridden, unable to hold a job let alone their own children, and living nowhere near the normal lives most Ontarians lead.
Chronic pain affected an estimated 19% of Canadians aged 18 or older (6 million) in 2018, and is more prevalent in Ontario (and Manitoba) than other provinces. According to the Canadian Pain Research Summit Report (2016), “Unrelieved pain costs Canadians an estimated $43-$60 billion per year in health care expenditures and lost productivity, exceeding the cost of cancer, heart disease, and HIV combined.”
According to Dr. Fiona Campbell, a pediatric anesthesiologist and the president of the Canadian Pain Society, “Pain is invisible and is often the byproduct of some medical illness, surgical procedure, or trauma.” She adds that chronic pain is common and undertreated. Too much focus remains on the original problem that caused the pain, and not enough on the fact that, for some, “the pain itself is the only remaining problem,” says Campbell.
In a study on the impact of chronic pain on mental health (Gilmour, 2015), “Both pain intensity and pain-related activity prevention play direct and indirect roles in the impact of chronic pain on mental health.” And, “while pain can contribute directly to mental illness, it can also contribute indirectly by limiting activities and thereby increasing psychological distress.”
Pain is the oldest medical problem that is also the most difficult to treat. According to Marcia Meldrum, an associate researcher in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California discussing the impact of pain management on the opioid epidemic, “(Opioids) are very effective in interrupting and shutting off pain signals in the brain (…) but they are also very dangerous.”
The treatment in question is a simple nerve-block therapy, which involves the injection of a local anesthetic to the area that is causing the patient pain. Simple, yes. But this life-changing therapy allows many patients to become self-confident, active, even productive and contributing members of society.
Our clinic serves a population base of 1.5 million people in the National Capital Region, and is currently serving thousands of patients who rely heavily on the services we provide. This clinic is critical to the quality of life and well-being of people in our community.
INOVO Medical currently has over 600 patients (and close to 300 in waiting) who rely on multiple nerve-block injections on a monthly — and some, weekly — basis. These injections, which are non-narcotic and non-invasive, give chronic pain sufferers some of the freedoms and life enjoyment they once had or only dreamed of.
These cuts are not only devastating for Ottawa residents, but also unduly re-victimizing sufferers.
The reality is that these cuts are making it increasingly difficult to meet the healthcare needs of Ontarians, and the result is a serious threat to the ability of patients to access adequate, quality chronic pain management treatments.
This is unacceptable.
What this community does not need is more cuts that will impact the quality of health care services they receive.
As the medical head of INOVO Medical, and speaking on behalf of patients, chronic pain sufferers, as well as other clinics in Ontario who offer this life-changing treatment, I urge your government to stop cutting these life-enhancing treatments that so many who have been in agony for so long depend on.
Mathieu Bélanger, M.D.
President, INOVO Medical
In “Changes proposed to OHIP coverage,” CityNews says:
“Pain management medications are also under review, with a proposed reduction in peripheral nerve blocking shots to just 16 a year, to save $51 million. For some patients suffering from chronic pain, that number will not cover a single week’s medication.”
—Cynthia Mulligan, Cristina Howorun and Dilshad Burman of CityNews
Help Us in Calling on The Government of Ontario to Stop Cuts to Nerve Block Therapies
If you are a patient at INOVO Medical, or if you suffer from Chronic Pain or if you have a loved one who suffers from Chronic Pain, please take a moment to fill out our petition below. Tell us a story of your chronic pain, and how you benefit from nerve block therapy if you had it done, or perhaps how not having this therapy may impact you and your quality of life. Please note that your story will be emailed to the offices of the Prime Minister of Ontario and MPPs. Thank you!