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Coverage needed for ostomy supplies, says P.E.I. Opposition health critic

Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen had to overcome a series of roadblocks to attend a recent Health P.E.I. board meeting.
(Guardian File Photo)
Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen. - SaltWire Network

Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen said a Rotary club is increasingly stepping up to pay the high costs of ostomy supplies for Islanders, the costs of which are not covered by Health P.E.I.

On Tuesday, MacEwen said he had heard from members of the Montague Rotary Club, who told him they are assisting a number of individuals who require help in paying for the supplies. These supplies are not currently covered by the Catastrophic Drug Program, which defrays the cost of medication and some medical supplies.

An ostomy surgery is performed when the urinary or digestive system is not functioning properly. The surgery allows bodily waste to exit the body through a flange and ostomy bag. 

MacEwen questioned Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell about why the cost of these supplies are not covered. He said the Island was the only province that did not cover ostomy supplies.

“It shouldn’t have to go to the Rotary club,” MacEwen said.

“It’s a short-term savings for a long-term expense, and we’ve robbed that person of their quality of life.”

“It shouldn’t have to go to the Rotary club. It’s a short-term savings for a long-term expense, and we’ve robbed that person of their quality of life.”
-Opposition health critic Sidney MacEwen

Christine MacCallum, facilitator for the Charlottetown chapter of the Ostomy Support Group, said there are currently 585 people in Prince Edward Island who are dealing with the results of an ostomy surgery. She said monthly expenses for flanges and bags can range between $200 and $1,000 each month.

Most members of the group have had difficulty affording the needed supplies, she said.

"The hoops you'd have to go through if you tried to get through the system are pretty bad," MacCallum said.

"I've had people calling me crying. They said they've been to the dollar store, they're trying to use freezer bags with duct tape. I had one gentleman call me who spent four days in the bathtub while he was waiting for some money to come in because he couldn't leave the house."

Mitchell said he had recently met with members of the support group and acknowledged that some Islanders had faced hardship due to the cost of the supplies.

"We're still in the initial stages of figuring out how many Islanders would have the needs, what are the type of supplies they need and what's the costing," Mitchell said.

Although Mitchell did not offer specifics of whether his department would provide coverage of ostomy supplies, he hinted that government support might be forthcoming.

“I am very confident that in the very near future, we will be able to stand, either on the floor of this House to make an announcement, or in one of the local media [outlets] to say that we’ve come to a good solution and that everything will be worked out for the needs of these folks,” Mitchell said during question period on Tuesday.

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