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Mississauga hospital apologizes to patients who paid for drug to induce labour

Last Updated Sep 12, 2018 at 11:28 am EDT

A Mississauga hospital has apologized for charging pregnant women who had to be induced using a gel and now says the drug should have been covered by OHIP.

Trillium Health Partners had been charging patients between $38 and $90 for dinoprostone vaginal gel or inserts at its two birthing sites — Mississauga Hospital and Credit Valley Hospital.

“Our belief was that we were in line with our interpretation of ministry guidelines,” said spokesman Shawn Kerr. “But upon further review, we determined that, no, we were not in line with those guidelines and so we immediately stopped the charge and will be offering reimbursement to patients going back.”

First-time mom Melissa Leonelli was just one of the countless women caught in the bureaucratic error, which dates back to Dec. 12 at the Mississauga site and about five years at Credit Valley.

On Aug. 17, eight days after her due date, Leonelli went to the Mississauga Hospital to be induced and was given one dose of the gel.

Her mother asked a nurse about a sign posted in the maternity ward that said the hospital would be charging for induction, and patients could either pay when they leave or be billed. The notice said some extended health insurance plans cover the drug.

“At that point I was like, well I really want this baby out because I was eight days overdue, so I gotta do what I gotta do,” Leonelli said.

“What if I couldn’t afford to have it? The moms that can’t afford to pay for it — what if something went wrong with their baby? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Almost 9,000 babies are born at the two sites every year. Between July 2016 and July 2017, 623 patients at Credit Valley were induced using 922 doses of the gel.

When CityNews asked Trillium about the fee, staff investigated further and realized the hospital shouldn’t have been charging for the drug.

“I believe there was confusion around when a service or drug is issued in an outpatient setting — so you receive it in a clinic and then you would go home afterwards,” Kerr said. “I believe that’s what caused the confusion.”

A Ministry of Health spokesman said the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and all insured services are laid out in the Health Insurance Act and it’s a violation for a hospital to charge for them.

David Jensen said patients should first address their complaints to hospital patient relations offices and if the problem isn’t resolved, they can call the Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act (CFMA) Program.

Leonelli, who delivered her son Luca on Friday, said she would be going through the steps to get her money back.

“I think it’s good that they’re going to refund it, but how did you not know that you were doing it?” she said. “It’s kind of sketchy. Was it you were scamming us or was it just to make money or what was the reason for it?”

Anyone who was charged for the drug can call the hospital’s patient relations office at 905-848-7367 or visit the Trillium Health Partners website to arrange for a refund.