Activists call for improvements to B.C. health care for trans people

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      At this year's Pride Week panel discussion at Vancouver City Hall, held on July 27, speakers focused on wide range of trans issues, from what progress has been made to what still needs to be done.

      Several speakers drew attention to the ongoing lack of adequate medical care, especially in B.C.

      In 2014, NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert had called upon the provincial government to ensure that all health authorities have transgender health programs.

      At the time, Trans Alliance Society chair Morgane Oger had also told the Georgia Straight that the province needs to study the cost-effectiveness of sending patients to Montreal for sex-reassignment surgery.

      While clinical psychologist Wallace Wong said at the 2015 Pride Week panel discussion that more educational training about trans issues is required for staff of hospitals, schools, and health services, he also pointed out that more surgical training of transgender procedures is needed in Vancouver, instead of sending trans children and adults to Montreal for surgery. This point raised loud applause from the audience assembled in the council chambers.

      Due to costs of the surgery as well as travel and accommodation, Wong said that many patients have to go alone without the support of their families or friends.

      "It's quite ridiculous to send a 17-year-old kid by himself or by herself all the way to Montreal for a big surgery like this and recover on their own," he said. "Think about how emotionally vulnerable they are and how much they need help."

      Meanwhile, Oger, as part of this year's panel, cited statistics about emergency room care from the Trans PULSE study conducted in Ontario in 2011 to illuminate the extent of systemic discrimination against trans people.

      Oger noted that the study found that when it comes emergency room care in Canada, 29 percent of trans people were unable to get ER care when they tried to get it and 21 percent avoid ER care out of fear that transphobia will affect their treatment.

      Meanwhile, 52 percent who did receive ER care reported negative experiences based on gender identity (such as misnaming, ridicule, special notes made).

      "We're completely underserved in our own society in one of the things that's most important," she said.

      Oger worked on guidelines for medical care for a health authority outside Vancouver. To illustrate the state of unawareness of trans discrimination, she stated that one of their previous guidelines was to not make transphobic jokes in front of patients, as opposed to banning transphobic jokes altogether.

      "In other contexts, that's called bigotry, but in our context, it was acceptable," she said. She added that the guidelines have since been corrected.

      Although Vancouver's Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre offers some general health care, hormone injection equipment, counselling, and more for trans people, it is volunteer-run and only open twice a month.

      Oger suggested a number of ways to take action.

      She said that people can help to educate vendors and service providers about what is expected of them and that discrimination is unacceptable; can demand that contractors that state the consequences of too many complaints about gender identity issues; and can ask the city to enforce gender identity respect.

      Wong added that there is both a financial and health benefit to taking such action and improving the health care system.

      "By doing all this, we are shifting from reactive care to proactive care….Proactive care is the best way to cut down costs and ultimately save lives," Wong said.

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      Aug 11, 2015 at 11:16pm

      We need better healthcare for everyone, not just shiny, special ponies!