Toronto clinic launches petition to protect access to virtual gender affirming health care

A young person holding a transgender pride flag over their head against the blue sky. File/Global News

A group of doctors in Ontario have launched a petition to protect access to virtual gender affirming care in the province.

In the petition, Connect-Clinic in Toronto says it has been providing gender affirming care to Ontarians “by virtual means since 2019.”

“We currently have 1,500 registered patients with close to 2,000 prospective patients on the waitlist,” the petition read. “The changes to the Physicians Services Agreement by the Ministry of Health make it impossible for us to see new patients as of December 1, 2022.”

Beginning Dec. 1, the province will be changing its funding model for virtual visits.

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The clinic said virtual gender affirming care is “lifesaving.”

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According to the petition, gender affirming interventions such as hormone therapy have been “shown to decrease depression and suicidality.”

“This marginalized population’s increased rates of mental health challenges related to transphobia and discrimination contribute to difficulty accessing in-person care – virtual access to care is a much safer and accessible option,” the petition read.

The clinic said virtual care is a preferred method to access care for trans and gender diverse people “since it is a safe way to connect with a culturally-competent physician.”

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By 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, the petition had garnered a total of 8,414 signatures.

One signatory to the petition said they “cannot get this level of quality of care in person.”

“What virtual healthcare has provided has saved my life,” the comment read. “I know the reasoning behind the changes to make sure doctors provide an acceptable standard of care.

“But by making it hard to provide virtual care, they are making it impossible for many people to get any care at all.”

In a statement emailed to Global News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said it and the Ontario Medical Association “reached an agreement on the implementation of the virtual care framework within the new Physician Services Agreement.”

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“This deal will ensure that Ontarians will continue to have access to the care they need, when they need it. Virtual care is intended to compliment in-person care, not replace it,” the statement read. “This approach has resulted in meaningful changes for virtual care that ensures a positive patient-physician relationship is fostered.”

The ministry said it “does not have any discretion to waive or make exemptions to the requirements set out under Ontario law,” which includes the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

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