Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign Launches with Goal to Bring Life-Saving Cardiovascular Surgery to Northwestern Ontario

Celebrating the launch of the Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign to bring a full cardiovascular surgery program to Northwestern Ontario are (l-r): Glenn Craig, President & CEO, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation; Matt Simeoni, Chair, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; Dr. Barry Rubin, Program Medical Director, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery Program, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; Donna Pento, recipient of triple bypass surgery; Dr. Peter Voros, Executive Vice President, In-Patient Care Programs, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and Paul Fitzpatrick, Chair, Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign.
Celebrating the launch of the Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign to bring a full cardiovascular surgery program to Northwestern Ontario are (l-r): Glenn Craig, President & CEO, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation; Matt Simeoni, Chair, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; Dr. Barry Rubin, Program Medical Director, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery Program, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; Donna Pento, recipient of triple bypass surgery; Dr. Peter Voros, Executive Vice President, In-Patient Care Programs, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and Paul Fitzpatrick, Chair, Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign.

THUNDER BAY – HEALTH – Today, marked an important day in the future of healthcare in Northwestern Ontario. This morning, Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign Chair, Paul Fitzpatrick, announced the launch of a multi-million dollar capital campaign to bring a full cardiovascular surgery program to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Northwestern Ontario is a region where a large percentage of the population faces serious medical issues including high rates of cardiac disease, the highest rates of amputation in the province, along with high rates of diabetes and stroke. Having local access to cardiovascular surgery services is critical to save both lives and limbs.

“Thunder Bay is the only major city in Ontario where access to cardiac surgery is a day’s drive away or more,” said Fitzpatrick. “Faced with heart problems like blocked coronary arteries, time is critical. Now it’s our time to create local access for our families and friends, who have a great need for both cardiac and vascular surgery and to guarantee that care is unquestionably world-class. These new surgical services will have a tremendous impact on the over 1,000 patients and their families who will be able to have surgery close to home. Our goal is to raise $14 million dollars to fund the equipment required for both vascular and cardiac surgery, along with the local portion of the construction costs for the program. I’m pleased to announce that, already, close to $11 million has been raised towards our goal.”

Residents of Northwestern Ontario can feel confident the care they’ll receive here is equivalent to anywhere else in the province. The cardiovascular surgery program at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre was developed in partnership with the world-renowned Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the University Health Network. Program Medical Director for both sites, Dr. Barry Rubin explained, “The whole idea of the partnership is to provide patients in Northwestern Ontario with high quality vascular and cardiac surgical care, close to home.  No patient in Northwestern Ontario should have to travel 1,000 km to Toronto, Hamilton, London or Ottawa to have a standard aortic aneurysm repair or heart bypass surgery, be separated from their family in the process, and then be returned home after surgery far from the nurses and doctors who provided their care.  If patients have complex needs or require redo surgery, they can be managed at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, and return to Thunder Bay Regional for a full recovery. Nurses, doctors and administrators at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre work as a team to ensure that the quality of care provided at both sites is continuously monitored, and is at the highest international standard. Together, we have created a true partnership that has improved the care of the patients we serve. We are grateful that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has provided strong support for the partnership between the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.”

Donna Pento knows all too well the stress of having to leave town for surgery. She received triple-bypass surgery in Hamilton several years ago. “For a few months before my surgery, I’d been experiencing shortness of breath, as well as feeling tired and run down, which was really unlike me. I also had pain in my jaw, but nothing that my Dentist could explain. I was only 58 and wondering what on earth was happening to me.”

Continued Pento, “As it turns out, my symptoms were caused by three of my coronary arteries being completely blocked and I needed cardiac bypass surgery to save my life. I was shocked when I was told I couldn’t have the surgery here. I had no idea I would have to go out of town. You don’t realize all the additional stress of traveling away from home for a procedure like this until you’ve gone through it and I can see why some people choose not to go. No one should have to travel so far, possibly without their support system, to have critical, life-saving care. I want anyone who needs this surgery to be assured that they can have it here in Thunder Bay – close to home, where they can best be supported. It’s why I and my husband Don have already made a donation to support this campaign. We’d do anything to make sure no one else needs to go away for this care.”

Dr. Peter Voros, Executive Vice President, In-Patient Care Programs at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre explained, “With the generous donations from our community, we will expand an existing Operating Room to be used for cardiac surgery and equip it with critical equipment like perfusion machines which are used to circulate blood and oxygen while the heart is stopped; develop a new dedicated Operating Room for vascular surgery and equip it so surgeons can perform minimally invasive surgery; build a new 14 bed ‘step-down’ recovery ward for patients after they have surgery and build a vascular laboratory and clinic area to provide vascular ultrasound, post-operative care, wound care and other services to inpatients and outpatients.”

Matt Simeoni, Chair, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre added, “Our Hospital’s Board of Directors is always focused on the people of Northwestern Ontario. We all want the safe, quality health care services that keep our loved ones close to home, and that is what will happen when we can provide both cardiac and vascular surgery at our Hospital. This will be life-changing for thousands of people in our community.”

Concluded Fitzpatrick, “Hearing so many stories of people having to leave town and the strain it puts on the patient and their family really puts into perspective just how critically important it is for us to develop this surgical program right now. Together, we’re making history and forever changing the landscape of healthcare for our region.”


Donations to the Our Hearts At Home Cardiovascular Campaign can be made:
Online: OurHeartsAtHome.ca
Phone: (807) 345-4673
In-Person: At the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (Donation Centre)
By Mail: 980 Oliver Rd. Thunder Bay, ON  P7B 6V4