NDP MLA seeks answers on transgender health-care woes in B.C.

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      An NDP MLA has called on the B.C. government to ensure that all health authorities in the province have transgender health programs.

      Spencer Chandra Herbert, the representative for Vancouver-West End, told the Georgia Straight that Vancouver Coastal Health is the only authority with such a program.

      “I get calls from trans folks in Prince George, Grand Forks, Castlegar, Victoria, and other locations saying, ‘What about me?’” Chandra Herbert said by phone from the legislature in Victoria. “How is this human rights if a health program only exists in downtown Vancouver?”

      Chandra Herbert was responding to news of B.C. Trans Advocacy Day, an upcoming event urging the B.C. Ministry of Health to provide “safe, accessible, timely” surgeries for trans people in the province. On Sunday (November 2), the free event will take place at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre (1 Athletes Way) in Vancouver.

      The Opposition MLA claimed that, for the past two weeks, he has unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Minister of Health Terry Lake to discuss some of the issues on the agenda for B.C. Trans Advocacy Day. For one thing, he said he would like to ask Lake why no phalloplasties have taken place since the ministry approved in 2012 Medical Services Plan coverage for five of the masculinizing genital surgeries a year. (The limit of five was later dropped.)

      “The reality is we would have had 10 done by now,” Chandra Herbert said, “but the government didn’t work to ensure that was actually reality.”

      Chandra Herbert noted he also wants the minister to address the “excessive” wait times being experienced by trans people seeking the required assessments for sex reassignment surgery.

      “For many people, these are very much life-reaffirming surgeries,” the MLA said. “These are very important. People have actually gone through the assessment and now are being told, if it’s longer than two years ago—if they’ve been on the wait list that long—they’re being required to come in and get another assessment. But, of course, they’re being told they can’t do that until after April. How does it make sense to force people to go through assessment after assessment after assessment and still not be able to get the surgery they need—or not even be able to get an assessment?”

      Ministry of Health staff did not make a representative available for an interview earlier this week.

      Trans Alliance Society chair Morgane Oger told the Straight earlier this week that the province should study whether it’s cost-effective to send patients to Montreal for sex reassignment surgery, which is what’s happening now. The transgender-rights activist wants to see both feminizing and masculinizing surgeries done locally and in a timely manner.

      “We believe it’s not a good idea to make people wait a very long time, to go very far away to do a surgery, and then make them come back here in isolation with limited or no postoperative support,” Oger said.

      Chandra Herbert asserted that out-of-province sex reassignment surgeries are “incredibly stressful and incredibly expensive” for both patients and the health-care system.

      “It’s a request folks in the trans community have been making for years—that we do need to look at that—and I don’t see why not,” Chandra Herbert said.




      Oct 29, 2014 at 7:48pm

      I'm sorry, but with the demands on the health care system today i don't see this as a top priority.

      how fortunate for you

      Oct 29, 2014 at 10:13pm

      Grant, that must be nice to not require this kind of medical intervention. It may not be a top priority for you, but i'm sure many other types of urgently required surgeries aren't either - that doesn't mean they aren't necessary and hugely important and maybe even lifesaving for someone else. If you ever find yourself in a position to need a surgery which some people don't view as a "top priority", I only hope for you that there are enough people who agree with your right to access it.