Months after a bill unanimously passed at Queen’s Park requiring the Ontario government to implement evidence-based treatments for those in need of post-stroke physiotherapy, patients unable to access treatments took their frustrations directly to the health minister.
Sixty-two-year-old Jim McEwen and 30-year-old Dan Gingras waited to speak with Dr. Eric Hoskins Thursday morning.
“When Dan and I are sent home, we feel like we’re abandoned,” McEwen told Hoskins.
They said they are being denied treatment because of their age.
“Can you honestly look Dan in the eye and tell him he has to wait till the age of 65 to receive treatment? Come on… he needs that now,” McEwen said.
In Ontario, anyone between the ages of 20 to 64 could not get OHIP to cover the cost of post-stroke physiotherapy. But Bill 9 recently passed removing the age discrimination.
At first, Hoskins’ staff asked Global News not to film the exchange, saying it was unconventional practice. But McEwen, Gangris and their families waited to speak with him and the minister agreed.
”Dan, let me see … in your situation there might be something we can do to help,” Hoskins said.
Shortly after the exchange, Hoskins told Global News the province has made investments in post-stroke care.
“I want to reassure them that we are taking Bill 9 very, very seriously and are intending and have implemented it very specifically,” he said.
“Currently physiotherapy if it’s evidence-based and the clinician involved believes it is effective, that care is available in hospital. It’s available through hospital outpatient clinics as well.”
Hoskins said a task force made up of organizations involved in stroke care has been set up and the province is working to get data from hospitals in order to create consistency across Ontario. He said there are over 250 community physiotherapy clinics in the province.
He said seniors and people who receive Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits are eligible for publicly-funded physiotherapy.
But residents outside of those categories need to have a medical professional sign off on OHIP-funded treatment.
“If you’re not in one of those categories, then you have opportunity – again we provide post-stroke physiotherapy on an evidence-based regime in hospital through hospital outpatient clinics and if it’s part of the treatment plan, which is prescribed through a care coordinator at a CCAC,” Hoskins said.
Doctors used to believe rehabilitation was effective only in the first few weeks following a stroke and while it’s still considered the most important time, newer research has suggested improvements in function can keep on taking place over the long term.
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,” Dr. Mark Bayley, Medical Director of the Brain & Spinal Cord Rehab Program at UHN Toronto Rehab Institute, previously told Global News.
“For example, can we provide them with telerehab can we use a robot in their home to do their exercises with them.”
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.
With files from Christina Stevens