Island medical providers seek long-term methadone solutions

MANITOULIN— Island medical providers are continuing conversations and working with health officials to establish a long-term solution for opiate patients in the wake of recently learning that both methadone doctors servicing Manitoulin would be withdrawing services.

“The 26 Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team (FHT) patients seem to be transitioning to Espanola and we have no concerns for their immediate care,”  FHT Director Judy Miller told The Expositor. “We are continuing discussions with  the ministry (Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and the Island medical collaborative group (Manitoulin Health Collaborative) to come up with the next steps and a long term solution.”

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As The Expositor reported last week, Manitoulin opiate addiction doctors Dr. Dressler, providing service to the M’Chigeeng Health Centre and Northeast Family Health Team, and Dr. Sankey, providing service through the Sunrise Clinic in Wikwemikong, recently notified patients that they will be withdrawing services on the Island due to changes made to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) billing schedule, specifically the fee for urine testing.

The Espanola Family Health Team opened its doors to the 26 Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team opiate addiction patients, while Wikwemikong was able to continue service in the community.

Wikwemikong Chief Duke Peltier explained last week that his community had already secured a new physician for their addiction clinic, Dr. Koka of Sudbury.

“Everything seems to be going well,” Chief Peltier told The Expositor when contacted for a followup this week. “Patients have been meeting with Dr. Koka and there has been no break in services.”

M’Chigeeng Chief Linda Debassige was not available for comment as of press-time Monday, but Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins told The Expositor that M’Chigeeng is also in conversations with Dr. Koka to provide service in the community once Dr. Dressler leaves on November 20.

Minister Hoskins also assured The Expositor that there would be a continuity of care for all 150 Manitoulin methadone patients and his ministry’s support in developing a long-term solution for Island patients.

“The issue was brought to my attention this week,” said Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha when contacted by The Expositor on the issue. “It is frustrating to see cuts and gaps in service for individuals that are already vulnerable. These individuals in need are being forgotten about and the services that should be there for them, cut. This is going to have to be pursued aggressively.”

“Across Manitoulin and throughout the North, individuals need equal medical access,” added Mr. Mantha. “People are going to continue to struggle until a plan is put in place to address these shortfalls.”

Mr. Mantha said he will be lending his support to the Manitoulin medical community to help “get to the bottom of the issue” and resolve the problem.