Ontario man claims age discrimination is barring him from post-stroke treatment
Jim McEwen has already spent a good chunk of his retirement savings, and he is only 61 years old.
He has been spending on therapy since having a major stroke six years ago.
He said the Ontario health care system isn’t helping him.
After being discharged from hospital, he was given 12 physiotherapy sessions as an outpatient.
“I said where do I go for more publicly funded physiotherapy and my social worker looked at me and said, ‘you’re done this is all you get,'” said McEwen.
He claimed he is the victim of age discrimination.
Access to publicly funded post-stroke care such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy continues for youth and seniors only.
“All the other people in Ontario between 20 and 64, we are all thrown to the curb by our Ontario health care system,” he said.
In April 2015, the opposition took the government to task on the issue.
“This is an issue that my ministry is, and has been for some time, working on,” was the Minister of Health’s response according to official Hansard transcripts from the Ontario legislature.
“My ministry, for some time, has been working on the precise issue.” he reiterated later.
All parties approved a motion to extend post-stroke recovery services to those aged 20 through 64.
But according to critics, since then nothing has happened.
“There has not been any movement in over a year on this particular issue,” said Lorne Coe, Progressive Conservative MPP for Whitby-Oshawa.
“We need movement on this issue. We need to provide hope. We need to provide equality.” he said.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins was asked what his government has done in the past year to address the issue.
“We are looking at it, we are working to address it,” he told Global News.
Hoskins added that there are a number of pilot projects on the go.
“There is a lot of support we’ve provided. And there is a lot that an individual can do in terms of self care, and self rehabilitation. There are exercise classes,” he said.
Hoskins explained there are 250 locations throughout the province where post-stroke patients can access publicly funded physiotherapy.
READ MORE: ‘Stroke in young people is on the rise’: Family shares cautionary tale of 15-year-old son
McEwen said he can’t access any of it.
“I say, damn it, where are the solutions that minister Hoskins talked about.”
Doctors used to believe rehabilitation was effective only in the first few weeks following a stroke.
While that is still considered the most important time, research now suggests improvements in function can keep on taking place over the long term, so it is important for treatment to continue.
Experts are looking at less traditional, cost effective options.
“We find that the group format is very helpful because of the stimulation of their peers, the common group motivating each other. That’s why we’ve looked into the group format, but we really need to understand better how to offer it cost effectively for those who are living in remote communities,” said Dr. Mark Bayley, Medical Director of the Brain & Spinal Cord Rehab Program at UHN Toronto Rehab Institute.
“For example, can we provide them with telerehab can we use a robot in their home to do their exercises with them.”
Cost effectiveness is important.
Not only will there be more post-stroke patients as the population ages, but according the Heart and Stroke foundation, international studies predict stroke rates among adults from the ages of 24 to 54 is expected to double in the next 15 years.
The first signs of stroke are a drooping face, an inability to raise both arms and slurred or jumbled speech.
Getting immediate care is critical for the best chances of recovery.