CORNWALL, Ontario – An online petition is currently up on Change.org pleading with the public for support to save the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Clinic in Ottawa.
“Ongoing budget cuts and lack of funding have left the clinic who treats more than 3,500 patients struggling to function and keep their doors open,” the petition reads. “The Ottawa MS Clinic has a world renowned transplant program and is currently the ONLY hospital in Canada to offer (stem cell) transplants to MS patients.”
Locally, Cornwall area MS patients feel the loss of the clinic will leave them in a vacuum.
“I would have to find a new neurologist,” said Karen Torrie-Racine, who has been a patient at the MS Clinic since 1985 and who’s doctor is renowned neurologist Dr. Mark Freedman who specializes in the study and treatment of MS at the MS Clinic in Ottawa.
“We don’t know what we’d would do,” said Marc Villeneuve, who’s lived with MS since 2004.
Torrie-Racine explained how the MS Society used to provide funding for MS Clinics across Ontario.
“The MS Society cut funding for the clinics about six years ago,” she said. “They felt that this wasn’t their responsibility.”
Villeneuve and Torrie-Racine explained that the loss of the clinics will mean harder access to specialists, a loss of an important resource for research and a loss of access to clinical trials for MS patients.
The MS Clinic in Ottawa provides a range of services and support including neurology, counselling, daily personal support and more.
“The closing of the clinic would cause so much turmoil in the lives of their clients,” said Torrie-Racine.
The Ottawa MS Clinic is operated by the Ottawa Hospital and is located on their General Campus.
The Ottawa Hospital has refuted the claims that the clinic will be closing in a statement on social media on April 30.
“The Ottawa Hospital’s Multiple Sclerosis Clinic is not closing, despite rumours to the contrary, and has never been planned to close. Our clinic is open and will continue to serve patients with the skilled, compassionate care they expect from The Ottawa Hospital and all of its care providers,” the statement reads.
The organizers of the petition acknowledged the statement, but remain skeptical of the clinic’s future.
“The Ottawa Hospital issued a statement yesterday saying that the MS Clinic will not be closing, but has given no further information on how they will continue to operate, or if they are keeping the therapeutic nurse position,” the statement on the petition reads. “Thank you all for sharing and signing. I am keeping this petition open until I receive confirmation that the clinic will receive the staffing it needs to deliver care to their current patients as well as future patients.”
There are roughly 230 individuals in the Cornwall area who live with MS and Torrie-Racine estimates that most of those rely on the MS Clinic in Ottawa.