The president of the Children’s Clinic, which closed this month after more than eight years in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is blaming “inflexibility” on the part of Dr. Lucie Opatrny, executive director of the McGill University Health Centre, for having to shutter the privately run facility.The Children’s Clinic opened in 2015 shortly after the MUHC superhospital was inaugurated at the Glen site in N.D.G. From the very start, the clinic was mired in controversy, as pediatricians from the newly relocated Montreal Children’s Hospital at the Glen diverted thousands of their patients to the private medical centre where they were also working. Parents suddenly had to pay out of pocket for allergy and blood tests at the Children’s Clinic — tests that used to be covered under medicare at the hospital.
The arrangement also raised ethical questions as the landlord of the Children’s Clinic at 5100 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. is the MUHC Foundation. Thus, a hospital foundation was charging rent to a private clinic, which in turn was charging parents for certain tests that were free at the Children’s Hospital.
But patient appointments slowed down to a trickle at the Children’s Clinic following shutdowns that the Quebec government imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Children’s Clinic was unable to pay rent for months, and soon the back rent accumulated to more than $1 million, forcing the operators into bankruptcy.
The problems faced by the Children’s Clinic underscore some of the risks of private facilities partnering with hospitals in the public system — with the end result that patients are sometimes left in the lurch. Although the number of medical appointments had gradually started going back up, the volume was not what it used to be like pre-pandemic, explained Vince Trevisonno, president of the Children’s Clinic.
“The highest that we ever went, because I keep track, was 900 patient visits in one week,” he said. “And that just doesn’t pay the bills” because the clinic needs about 1,200 visits a week.