One of the experts who helped develop the province’s epilepsy strategy is characterizing the proposal as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for people affected by the neurological disorder and physicians who treat patients with epilepsy.
Dr. Carter Snead, who heads the neurology department at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), says the one in 100 Ontarians living with epilepsy need a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges that come with treating the disorder.
If the proposal is approved by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, people living with epilepsy would have access to an evidence-based system with equitable and timely access to treatment.
“(For) anybody who has seizures that would be a candidate for surgery or alternative therapy there (would be) an organized, orderly way to approach those patients, in terms of diagnosis and treatment,” says Snead.
As part of the strategy, epilepsy care centres with state-of-the-art equipment would be established provincewide and would serve as primary access points for people with epilepsy.
Through these facilities, patients would have access to epileptologists, psychologists and social workers. The sites would be equipped with the latest in epilepsy monitoring and imaging equipment.
Currently, when a patient has a seizure, they go to an emergency room where they may or may not get referred to a family doctor, who may or may not treat them with the appropriate drugs, explains Snead.
“The ideal circumstance, if all this system was to be put into place, is that such a patient would be referred to the district epilepsy care centre, they would then be evaluated by the neurologist, who would then make recommendations to the referring doctor for appropriate medical treatment,” he says.
“If they fail that treatment, they would be sent back to that epileptologist at the district health-care centre and they would then be evaluated as to whether they would be a candidate for surgical treatment.”
If a person is found to be a candidate for surgery, they would then be referred to one of the regional care centres, which would be located in Toronto, Hamilton and London.
“Those centres are able to complete the diagnostic evaluation for epilepsy, plus do everything that a district epilepsy centre can do, in terms of providing advice and referring doctors,” explains Snead.
Snead notes that organizations advocating for people living with epilepsy, including Epilepsy Ontario, will have important roles to play within the strategy’s context.
Epilepsy advocacy agencies, he adds, will likely play an important part in the initiation and development of the epilepsy care centres. Ideally, he adds, when patients come to the district epilepsy care centres, they would be put into contact with the agency in their area.
“Their roles are going to be critical,” Snead says of epilepsy agencies.
“If (the ministry) decides to make this investment, my own view is that they probably will need some kind of advisory committee to help them do it, and I would see groups like Epilepsy Ontario being involved at the outset, in terms of advisory committees and being involved with these centres from the very beginning.”
To become involved, please contact OHTAC at OHTAC_Comments(at)hqontario.ca to share your thoughts about the need for a provincial epilepsy strategy.
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Writer: Deron Hamel