Dramatically expanding chronic pain services

Dr. Duggan performing a procedure

In August 2015 the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care announced $4.6 million in additional funding over the next three years for an expanded academic adult Chronic Pain Program at Hotel Dieu Hospital.  The new and permanent funding will help to build more comprehensive, inter-disciplinary chronic pain management services that will support the estimated 37 per cent of adults in our region who live with debilitating chronic pain.

Guided by a strong philosophy of patient empowerment and education, the expanded pain program team is developing a shared care program model, where patients will be provided the opportunity to actively participate in learning about pain management skills, lifestyle change improvements and pyscho-social supports for their chronic pain presentation.

For patients, an expanded program will translate into decreased wait times, improved access and increased treatment options.  The funding will allow the program to add specialty procedures and pain speciality clinics, and to enhance collaboration with other care providers, including primary care practitioners, to improve patient functioning and health, support patients returning to work and decrease patients’ utilization of health services.

In view of the complex nature of chronic pain, treatment often necessitates a blend of different approaches targeting bio-psychosocial factors that affect chronic pain perception, says Dr. Scott Duggan, Medical Director of the Chronic Pain Program. 

“The boost in funding means we’ve been able to add new team members including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and nursing support,” he says, adding that recruitment of a psychologist is underway.

The recent addition of a dedicated C-arm fluoroscopy machine and a new fluoroscopy-compatible table has enabled the clinic to increase its ability to provide image-guided interventions, including targeted spine injections and radiofrequency ablation treatment options for spine and peripheral nerve pain syndromes.  The result:  decreased wait times for specialized procedures and an increase in the deliverables provided by the clinic.

In addition, the program now has a unique opportunity to contribute to a national research effort identifying new treatments to manage and prevent chronic pain, says Dr. Duggan.

In March 2016, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research awarded $25 million to the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Chronic Pain Network, the largest and most coordinated effort to date to advance knowledge and patient care for millions of Canadians suffering from chronic pain. 

Several network activities will be coordinated through Queen’s University in collaboration with investigators in the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Chronic Pain Program at Hotel Dieu and the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute.  The network will help to develop communication strategies and health policies that will translate new research into improved health care outcomes for people living with chronic pain.