B.C. Liberals eliminate preventative health measures for people with disabilities

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VANCOUVER –Persons living with disabilities have been dealt yet another blow from the B.C. Liberals as they face cuts to preventative health measures that help with mobility, say the New Democrats.

“The government’s elimination of coverage for orthotics and orthopedic shoes has led to an increase in serious preventable health conditions and negatively impacted the quality of life for British Columbians living with disabilities,” said New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth.

“The impacts of these short-sighted cuts are significant for patients that are no longer eligible for replacement orthotics or orthopedic shoes. These devices are clearly a preventative health measure and without them persons with disabilities may end up requiring surgery at a much higher cost, and in some cases amputation,” said Farnworth.

Farnworth joined Dr. Tammy Gracen, a doctor of podiatric medicine, and Jenny Kwan the New Democrat MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant,to draw attention to their concerns.

“The B.C. Liberals are targeting our province’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Kwan, “We’re talking about people with disabilities who require orthotic devices to help them walk, but the government has gone and changed the rules.”

Dr. Tammy Gracen noted at today’s press conference that patients with disabilities, who already face so many challenges, are now struggling with reduced mobility and chronic pain management which will only lead to bigger health problems.

“Basic mobility, not limb loss,should be the criteria for foot orthotics,” said Dr. Gracen. “Pain does matter and people do need to be able to walk. Uncorrected biomechanical problems will lead to more serious conditions that require surgery.”

On March 4th, 2010, without consultation with stakeholder groups, the B.C. Liberals announced extensive cuts to coverage in health services for low-income British Columbians living with disabilities. Cuts included the elimination of foot orthotics, electrotherapy devices, glucometers for diabetics, medication delivery devices and contraceptive devices. The province’s own health officer,Dr. Perry Kendall,expressed concern regarding the potential impact of these cuts,saying they may turn out to be counterproductive to health and budgets in the longer run.

According to recent data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the individual average cost for a major foot intervention is upwards of $11,000 in B.C.,a significant cost to the health care system. The average cost for orthotics runs between $100 and $250.

Kwan says the B.C. Liberals are failing families living with disabilities.

“Families living with disabilities are outraged with the multitude of cuts they’ve faced under Premier Christy Clark’s supposed ‘families first agenda’. Whether its cuts to health, respite care or forcing people out of long-time group homes, our offices have been flooded with calls and letters saying the B.C. Liberals are negatively impacting the quality of life for British Columbians living with disabilities.”

Adrian Dix and the B.C. New Democrats are committed to making life better and more affordable for families by investing in healthcare, education, and other vital services.