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Stroke survivors say province is neglecting to give them physical therapy

Click to play video: 'Ontario post-stroke patients pushing for access to physiotherapy' Ontario post-stroke patients pushing for access to physiotherapy
WATCH ABOVE: Nearly two years ago, a Durham MPP introduced a bill demanding equal treatment for all post-stroke patients in the province. Now, many survivors say they still aren't receiving the physical care they need. Jasmine Pazzano has more – May 14, 2018

Shelly Permaul uses her right hand to grab her left wrist, placing it on top of a stationary-bike handle before she slowly grips it. She repeats the same motion with her leg, lifting her left calf onto the bike pedal.

The Uxbridge, Ont., resident says coming to the gym has helped her regain control of the left side of her body, which became paralyzed after she suffered a stroke in 2016.

But what she really needs, she says, is intense physical therapy that is beyond her means. “[I] need massages, [I] need physiotherapy … and I don’t have the money for it,” she said, tearing up. “I get [Ontario Disability Support] and it’s not enough to do anything.”
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Bill 9 states that the Ontario government is required to implement evidence-based physiotherapy services for post-stroke patients of all ages, but Permaul says she, along with several other survivors, is still being denied this treatment.

“We need more help,” said the 50-year-old. “There’s no help at all for us.”

READ MORE: Better Winnipeg: Festival du Voyageur toques support stroke survivors

The MPP for Oshawa-Whitby, Lorne Coe, introduced the bill and it was unanimously passed at Queen’s Park in 2016. The bill removed the age discrimination of OHIP coverage, as anyone between the ages of 20 and 64 could not get the treatment costs covered. Coe did not respond to Global News’ interview request for this story.

A Bowmanville stroke survivor, Jim McEwen, confronted the former Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, in 2017, pushing for equal access to treatment. “We feel like we’re abandoned,” said 63-year-old McEwen to Hoskins.

“I want to reassure them that we are taking Bill 9 very, very seriously,” Hoskins told Global News.

But McEwen, who suffered a stroke in 2010, says not only has the province denied him treatment — he says the new Health Minister, Dr. Helena Jaczek, has not answered any of the emails he has sent her about the issue.

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“Somebody is just giving me the big middle finger at Queen’s Park and I don’t appreciate it,” he said. “I spend, on the average, between $30,000 and $40,000 per year, all out of pocket, to purchase private stroke-recovery programs in Ontario.”

READ MORE: Inverary mother raising awareness about pediatric strokes

Global News reached out to Jaczek’s office as well as the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, but neither responded to the requests for comment.

Permaul says she hopes to eventually get the treatment she needs. “I was a healthy person at one time. I had my own cleaning business. I can’t pick my grandchildren up … play with them or [anything]. [I] just have to hold their hands and that’s it.”
In the meantime, Permaul is trying to recover on her own. “We’re walking around, just doing what we can for [ourselves], and there’s nothing to help us,” she says.

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