11/10/2015 07:13 EST | Updated 11/10/2015 07:59 EST

Regina Heart Patients Want To Know Why Rehab Costs 4 Times More Than In Saskatoon

REGINA — Cardiac patients in Regina say the cost for a medically supervised rehabilitation program is getting so high that many can't afford treatment.

The patients went to the Saskatchewan legislature on Tuesday to ask why a rehab program in Regina costs $440 for three months when a similar program in Saskatoon is $90.

Michael Debert has myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Debert, 38, has an artificial heart now and is waiting for a transplant.

"I basically run on batteries, that's how I live. I walk. I do my weights. Sometimes things get disconnected. I'm basically a walking machine,'' said Debert.

"I can't have just a regular person standing on the side saying, 'Are you going to be OK?' I need somebody to jump into action if something really does go wrong because I basically have minutes to spare, to get everything back to working properly.''

Heart attack survivor Lyn Goldman says she's been in the exercise program at the Dr. Paul Schwann Health and Research Centre at the University of Regina for five years.

Goldman says it's essential for cardiac patients who may be afraid to exercise without help nearby.

"Unsupervised exercise is very frightening for people who have had heart attacks because you never know when the next one is going to come. I think that's one of the great things about the centre is that you're surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you are,'' said Goldman.

Goldman says she'd like to see the government listen to its own report on cardiac rehabilitation services.

The report, prepared for the Ministry of Health and made public Tuesday by the Opposition NDP, says "there is a lack of consistency and co-ordination'' in how programs are delivered across the province. It also says that the ministry should ensure all programs are "delivered equitably.''

Health Minister Dustin Duncan says funding the medically supervised rehab program in Regina is up to the health region.

"What Regina was finding is that when they were subsidizing through the Paul Schwann, that they were unhappy in terms of what the uptake of the program was and they felt, based on some of the feedback that people were saying, that they wanted a program that was more accessible,'' said Duncan.

"Paul Schwann is a great centre, it works for some people, but it doesn't work for everybody.''

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