Patients, doctors fight closing of Lachine gynecology clinic in court

«I really don’t think it’s fair to close a clinic that’s been around for so many years,» says patient Linda Goedike.

«This court motion is our last recourse,» says Paul Saba, the president of the council of physicians, dentists and pharmacists at Lachine Hospital. Phil Carpenter / Montreal Gazette

Doctors and patients at Lachine Hospital have gone to court to block the McGill University Health Centre from closing their gynecology clinic on Monday, arguing that shutting the longstanding clinic “would be dangerous for the health of the women of Lachine and Dorval.”

Three doctors and two patients served the MUHC with court papers on Wednesday, informing the public hospital network that they are seeking a permanent injunction to keep the gynecology clinic open at Lachine Hospital. A Quebec Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear their motion on Friday.

“I really don’t think it’s fair to close a clinic that’s been around for so many years,” Linda Goedike, a patient and one of the co-plaintiffs, told the Montreal Gazette.

“I’m very happy with my gynecologist, Dr. (Jacqueline) Piché, who is a woman and who has been following me for many years. Now suddenly, they want to send me to LaSalle Hospital, and I don’t even known who I’ll have as a doctor. It’s shocking and concerning.”

Goedike also took issue with plans to expand men’s health at Lachine Hospital, while transferring women’s health to LaSalle Hospital.

“They want to concentrate men’s health at Lachine Hospital, but what about women’s health? They’re eliminating the women’s health program to the advantage of men’s health. Why can’t the hospital have both?”

Chantal Couture, the other co-plaintiff who is a patient, said she’s worried that some women might no longer be followed by a gynecologist once the clinic closes.

“My concern is if you don’t have an appointment anywhere, you won’t go,” Couture explained. “Women are supposed to go see their gynecologist every two years. What are some women going to do? They’re not going to go, and what’s going to happen with cancer” screening?

On Monday night, the executive director of the MUHC addressed the imminent closing of the clinic at a public meeting of the board, vowing that no Lachine patients will be “left to fall through the cracks.”

Pierre Gfeller suggested the decision to close the clinic was long overdue as it was taken in 2014. He said all patient files will be transferred to the hospital in LaSalle, which is seven kilometres away and specializes in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I have already said that the MUHC cannot do everything for everyone and that we have to choose,” Gfeller told the board. “For us, urology — with the arrival of new urologists, will allow us to complete the range of services in urology.”

But Dr. Paul Saba, the president of the council of physicians, dentists and pharmacists at Lachine Hospital, said Gfreller is misinformed about the 2014 decision.

Although a clinical plan in 2014 did recommend concentrating men’s health at Lachine Hospital, it did not make any mention of closing the gynecology clinic, Saba said. He added that should the clinic close, its two gynecologists — who commute to Lachine from St-Eustache — will not work at LaSalle Hospital.

“This court motion is our last recourse,” Saba said, “because courts are there to protect the public health and safety. The MUHC administration has made a grave error, which if not corrected, will cause irreparable damage to the women of Lachine.”

Saba has argued the decision was taken not for clinical reasons, but to cut costs. The MUHC is expected to report a deficit of $4 million at the end of its fiscal year on March 31.

The MUHC’s decision to shutter the popular gynecology clinic would appear to violate a unanimous resolution by the National Assembly in 2007 affirming the hospital’s “unique status” on the West Island to provide specialized care. The decision has also perturbed a number of physicians after former health minister Gaétan Barrette declared last June the government would invest $95 million to expand Lachine Hospital.

Lachine Hospital founded the gynecology clinic 15 years ago, recruiting three gynecologists. Today, two gynecologists offer consultations. The clinic conducts more than 700 consultations a year.

Saba said his lawyer, Anamaria Natalia Manole, will seek both a temporary and permanent injunction in the hope the judge will grant the former, given the clinic’s imminent closing, as arguments are considered for a permanent court order.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the MUHC’s director of professional services said she will not reconsider closing the clinic in the face of a court challenge.

“The transfer of patients is currently underway and LaSalle Hospital has prepared the capacity to receive them,” Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz said. “We continue to monitor the situation closely as well as work with doctors at LaSalle Hospital to ensure a seamless transition and continuity of care for all patients.”

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