Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) Firestone Clinic was supposed to be one of the best for respiratory care. Over the thirteen plus years of attending their clinics it makes one wonder what would happen if they actually decided to help people. I have talked to past patients and their stories are surprisingly similar. “They just didn’t help.” One person I know was never even told that they had asthma and the topic didn’t come up until 3 or 4 years later when the family doctor asked what medicine was prescribed. There definitely seems to be something not right within the context of the HHS Firestone Clinic and health care in general in Hamilton!
For the doctors of the Firestone Clinic, Dr. Morse, Dr. Sears and Dr. McIvor, I have, I believe shown a marginal interest at best and there has always been a dismissive attitude and I can’t help but wonder if the donations to HHS from ArcelorMittal have had some bearing. I find it hard to believe that it would be the case yet so many questions and scenarios go unanswered.
After one of my last visits with Dr. McIvor, I approached my family doctor and told her once again I did not want to go to the Firestone Clinic. I didn’t even want to see a Respirologist within the City of Hamilton! So I got a referral to McMaster University Hospital to see a Dr. Mylinh Duong. At least it wasn’t the Firestone Clinic.
So I went to see Dr. Duong and her interest and general concern were at least a bit reassuring. At least this time, I was being listened to, or so I thought. Dr. Duong ordered tests, which I completed to the best of my ability. We tried switching inhalers to see if that would relieve the symptoms of pain and restricted breathing. The Advair was an expensive mistake! There was in instant burning in the lungs as soon as I inhaled it. I called Dr. Duong to explain and we decided that it was best to stop taking the Advair. At my last appointment with Dr. Duong, she told me she wasn’t sure what going on but she did agree with the Occupational Hygienist. She told me that they were well aware that these kinds of respiratory exposures damage the nerve endings, that the new nerves grow back exponentially and more sensitive with each exposure and that this would probably be how my life would be from now on. She did say that the actual rates and determinations were not always known. I told Dr. Duong that I needed her to put that into her report and to be as succinct as possible … not that difficult of a request, I thought.
A couple of weeks later, I was dismayed to get Dr. Duong’s report. After being told that this pain and these breathing restrictions would be my life from now on, her report stated that I was “getting better.” In what way was this ongoing and permanent pain and restricted breathing “getting better”?
So family doctor, against all requests, sent me back to the Firestone Clinic. Dr. McIvor was still as disinterested as always and nothing changed again. The universe has an interesting way of stepping in sometimes and this was to be one of them. Just before one of my appointments there had been a family emergency and I needed to cancel the appointment. We rebooked a new date and as the day arrived, I began my journey into the city where my car broke down. Again I called the Firestone Clinic and cancelled my appointment. I told Dr. McIvor’s nurse that I would call in a couple of weeks to re-book. There were just too many things happening at once that I needed to get through before I would re-book. She said she would wait to hear from me. About 4 weeks later, I still hadn’t rebooked as I wasn’t feeling well and I got a phone call from the nurse reminding me of an appointment the following day. I told her that I had not received any notification and I had not booked an appointment due to personal issues. I also couldn’t make the appointment as I had another appointment scheduled for a broken tooth. Dr. McIvor’s nurse was livid! She stated that, “Dr. McIvor will not see you again without a referral from your family doctor!” I said that was fine. At which point she hung up on me!
When I went back to the family doctor I told her what had transpired with Dr. McIvor’s nurse and I told her “No more Firestone Clinic” and that I would find a Respirologist for her to send me to.
At the time I was attending a weight loss clinic that has doctors that come from around the region. One of the doctors from Toronto suggested a doctor and I thought I would look into it. He told me that Dr. Baltor at Mount Sinai, would be able to help me and if not he at least would be able to send me to someone who could. So I approached my family doctor for a referral and waited for a response.
Four weeks later and still no word from my doctor, I called her office and asked what had happened to the request for referral. The booking nurse said she would check and call me back. A couple of days later I got a call but not the one I was expecting. Dr. McIvor’s nurse from the Firestone Clinic called to tell me about another appointment. I couldn’t believe my ears. I reminded the nurse that the last time I had talked to her she had told me quite emphatically that Dr. McIvor would not see me without a referral before she had hung up on me and since the Firestone Clinic and Dr. McIvor had done nothing for the pain in the last 2 years I had no intention of asking my doctor for a referral to the Firestone Clinic! Her response was, “Well I guess we’ll just leave it then.” I told her that would be a good idea. The next day I got my appointment with Dr. Baltor at Mount Sinai.
In my first visit to Dr. Baltor, he told me that asthma medicines have little to no effect on what was happening to me. Dr. Baltor prescribed a new medicine, Spiriva. Within 2 days the ripping and tearing pains began to subside although they still return on any exertion. Also for the first time in 2 years, I went to sleep without fearing that I would die in my sleep as the sensations of being crushed and suffocating began to ease. In one visit and with one inhaled medicine, this doctor did more than 13 years of visits to HHS’s Firestone Clinic.
My questions are numerous and varied! Why did the Firestone Clinic call out of the blue? Was it because someone told them about a referral that was none of their business? Who else has access to my medical records? Why does the Minister of Health and the CPSO not think this rates action? Does a breach of confidentiality exist, especially with injured ArcelorMittal Dofasco employees? Who has that much pull over the health and medical care of injured workers in Hamilton? Does a good corporate citizen like ArcelorMittal Dofasco, that gives millions, have anything to do with my lack of true medical treatment?
These questions make the responses from the Ministers of Health and Long-term Care and the Minister of Labour seem very questionable indeed.