‘Lack of resources’ costs London its top heart doc; Cardiac care no longer priority at deficit-bound LHSC, Bob Kiaii says
Posted: January 25, 2020
(January 23, 2020)
By: Norman de Bono, Stratford Beacon-Herald
London has lost its top heart doctor, who charges London Health Sciences Centre no longer considers cardiac care a top priority as it makes cuts to reduce its deficit.
Bob Kiaii, former chief of cardiac care at LHSC and a pioneer in robotic-assisted cardiac surgery, has moved to Sacramento, Calif., where he is heading up the cardiac unit at the University of California.
“It is critical, I think, for the public to understand the status of things in London,” he said in an interview from California. “I trained in London, I did my medical school there. It has been a huge part of my life.”
Kiaii said leaving the city where he began his career 25 years ago was a tough decision, but he fears health-care services here are being diminished in the current climate of restraint.
Facing provincial funding restraints, LHSC “did not lobby for cardiac care. We were not given funding for the care we needed,” he said. “I was not capable of providing the best patient care.”
Ontario hospitals have to put programs in priority order because of a “lack of resources,” he said, and he believes cardiac care has taken a back seat at LHSC.
“In London, cardiac care is not the priority,” Kiaii said. “Due to cost constraints, they have to make decisions and cardiac care is not an area that has stayed stateof-the-art in its operation.”
Among his concerns, he cites:
- A lack of beds dedicated to cardiac care
- A lack of adequate operating room nurses
- Lower pay for cardiac care compared with orthopedic procedures
- More funding for other areas of hospital services compared with cardiac care.
“Cardiac care has become less of a focus” at LHSC, Kiaii said. “I participated in provincial meetings and LHSC was not as well represented as Toronto hospitals. We serve all of Southwestern Ontario and did not have resources. That was not addressed (by LHSC in the meetings). It became more and more problematic for me.”
LHSC issued an email response to Kiaii’s concerns.
“LHSC is proud of its cardiac care team and the compassionate, high-quality care provided to all patients. We wish Dr. Bob Kiaii all the best in his future endeavours” read the statement from Adam Dukelow, LHSC’s executive vice-president and chief medical officer.
Kiaii has featured prominently in hospital material promoting cardiac care at LHSC, and its fundraising foundation. He was described as an internationally renowned surgeon who achieved several medical firsts.
The public should be concerned over the loss of Kiaii and the standard of care at LHSC, said Peter Bergmanis, who co-chairs the Ontario Health Coalition’s London chapter.
“It is incredibly troubling.
We are a research centre and tertiary-care centre in vascular research and a leading physician is seeking better places to work because of the situation here,” he said.
“A significant player in our health-care system has voted with his feet. He is frustrated. The LHSC is not the strongest advocate.”
LHSC has a $24-million deficit and will lose 38 full-time equivalent nursing jobs to attrition and 11 more to layoff. It also has closed 11 surgical beds.
That belt-tightening has been felt in the area of heart surgery, Kiaii said.
“When there was an opportunity for me elsewhere, it made me consider relocating. There was no suggestion from LHSC they would change things,” he said.
LHSC is considered a top cardiac care hospital in Ontario, earning the title of “tertiary” care centre meaning it is where “significant, complex cases” are treated, Kiaii said.
LHSC has done more than 800 minimally invasive bypass surgeries since 1998, he said.
Kiaii is now at the University of California Davis Medical Center.
“It is disappointing. I have cherished my time there. The people in London are amazing and talented. We did great work,” he said.
“London was a place to do innovative work and think outside the box.”
Kiaii left London Nov. 25 and started work in California this month. email@example.com