Valentines letter to the Premier and Ontario residents
A letter from Doctor Roland Wong to Dalton McGuinty about someone unjustly being denied the special diet.
Roland Wong, M.Sc., MD., FRCPC
February 14, 2010
Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Fax: 416 325 3745
RE: The Special Diet Allowance
On Tuesday, February 9, a frail 63-year-old man with cancer came to my office and cried that his social worker at Ontario Disability refused to take his form. Why? Because I had completed the form for him. He was told to take a new form and to have it completed by another doctor. He was also told to look for a job. He told the social worker that he did not have another doctor and that I have been his doctor for 5 years. This man had taken his old form to the new MPP for Toronto Centre, Mr. Glen Murray. I know him from Winnipeg in the mid-80s where we fought an epidemic of phobia and discrimination. The patient was told to return to me to forward his case to the Ministry.
Perhaps Mr. Murray has too much confidence in me! So the patient trudged heavy-hearted to my office. I told him the best I could do was to write a note for him to show all those in power who can change his fate. Those in power set rules whether it’s fair or not. The heads of Ontario Disability and Ontario Works issued a memorandum on December 18, 2009 to their departments that social service workers can decide on their own that a person does not have a health condition.
So precisely the social worker has acted according to that memorandum. He went for a procedure for his cancer on February 12, 2010 and he was given an anesthetic for the procedure. The clinic staff asked him if there was anyone taking him home and he said he was alone in the city. What about a taxi? He said "I don't have money for taxi's". He fell outside the clinic and injured his shoulder. He hobbled onwards to your office to deliver his note. He found that the front office staff at your office was kind to him and accepted his note. He felt very relieved to meet pleasant people. Luckily for him, he has no broken bones just stiff shoulders.
According to a media report from December 2009, the Minister of Social Services has recommended that 2300 poor people be charged because they have committed fraud. Mr. Sid Ryan, President of Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) on February 1, 2010, in an opinion article in the Toronto Star, complained why Ontario has not charged employers and directors of company for killing their workers. Protective guards were removed and fingers were amputated. The poor people I serve wonder what your government wants to do with them.
As of January 2010, there was a new addition to the Special Diet Allowance form. Applicants are required to sign at the bottom of the form that they have read the form and understand to their "best of my knowledge, the information given on the form is true, correct and complete". Unfortunately, most applicants probably don’t understand at least half the medical and health conditions listed on the form. They probably don’t understand the words such as “dysphagia”, “mastication”, “malabsorption”, “microcytic anemia”, and “macrocytic anemia”. In medicine that would be signing a truly uninformed consent. They also have to vouch for the health professional filling the form. I wonder how the sponsors of the new forms intend to use the information gathered in a court setting. I certainly hope that my patient would not be charged for fraud. One never knows in this rough world.
There is a campaign to raise the pitifully low social service rates from the Mike Harris's days. A group of activist from "Put Food in the Budget advisory group" PFIB) recently met with the Minister of Social Services Madame Meilleur, they were told it was unlikely that their request to increase the rate would be met because according to public opinions social assistance "is not on their (the government's) radar". According to the Minister, your government's priorities remain in health and education. In addition, Ontario has an anemic economy and has no money for increasing rates. I remember that not long ago we had a rosy economy in Ontario, but Harris legacy didn’t change even during the good times. We do know that poverty is the number one determinant of health. If I may argue, the poverty belongs in the health equation. Moreover if it helps, transfer the Social Service Ministry into the Health portfolio and we have solved a problem!
So I can only sit on the sideline with my patient and hope the government will help him, shred the toxic memo, get rid of autographs and raise the rates. Thank you.
M.Sc., MD., FRCPC<