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Nearly 1,000 people on wait list for gender reassignment approval in Ontario

WATCH ABOVE: Almost 1,000 people are on a waitlist for sex reassignment surgery approval from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Christina Stevens reports.

TORONTO – The Ontario NDP have written an open letter to the Liberal Government calling on them to tackle the wait list for gender reassignment surgeries.

There are 970 people on the wait list to get an appointment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto to be assessed for the procedure and last year the hospital only processed 177 people for approval.

In the entire province, of close to 14 Million people, only CAMH is currently authorized to approve patients for surgery covered by health insurance.

“The reason CAMH is the only place in the province that does sex reassignment surgery approvals is because of a government regulation which determines that we are the only approved site in the province to do this. Our wait lists are unacceptably long,” said Dr. Peter Voore, CAMH medical director.

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READ MORE: B.C. group wants gender removed from birth certificates in Canada

He said CAMH told the government it was a problem.

The NDP said they brought it to the government’s attention more than a year and a half ago.

Health Critic France Gélinas said that the Liberal’s lack of action amounts to discrimination.

“No other program is treated that way, where you have to be wait listed in a single spot for no valid reason,” said Gélinas.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins was not available for an interview but acknowledged in a statement that they owe it to transgender individuals “to ensure they are treated in a timely fashion”.

He said he has asked his ministry to look at options.

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Meanwhile, Premier Kathleen Wynne chalked it up to part of a larger problem.

“We are dealing with a health system that’s got a lot of demands on it so we’ve got a number of issues we are working on,” said Wynne.

Brandi Bongers is hoping the problem is resolved soon.

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She sent her application to CAMH by express mail two and a half years ago and is still waiting, with no word on when she will get an appointment.

She transitioned three and a half years ago.

“I was at the point where I didn’t really want to go on anymore if i didn’t transition,” said Bongers.  “I’m already mentally there just not 100 percent physically so that always eats away at your brain.”

But she’s determined not to put her life on hold while she waits for the physical part, or let her define her.

“It doesn’t make me female, I make me female.”

Late Thursday, The Canadian Press reported a source close to Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the province is looking to increase the number of sites that can approve the surgery.

The report also said the government plans to bolster support to CAMH, which receives up to 100 referrals per month.