Sunday, December 21, 2008

Canadian province kicks in for rent of lung transplant patient

People needing out-of-Nova Scotia medical care to get $1,500

Nova Scotian's needing a lung transplant must move to Toronto, over 1,000 miles away, for their life-saving operation. Expenses build up as they remain on the waiting list for donor lungs to become available, sometimes up to a year or more. Congratulations to Louis Brill of the Nova Scotia Lung Association for his compassion and tireless efforts to find some compensation for them.

By JOHN GILLIS Health Reporter

People who have to spend extended periods outside Nova Scotia to get medical care may now apply for up to $1,500 per month from the province to cover rent.

Marilyn MacKay of Louisdale, Cape Breton, who has been living in the Toronto area since August 2007 awaiting a double lung transplant, will be the first to benefit from the assistance.

Abe Almeda, acting executive director of acute care for the Health Department, said he spoke to Ms. MacKay on Friday and told her the province would send a cheque for her December rent once she provides a receipt and will continue to pay up to $1,500 a month in rent as long as she needs to be away from home.

Ms. MacKay said she and her husband, Ken, felt very encouraged.

"Ken and I were extremely pleased this morning when we heard the news," she said from her niece’s home in Oakville, Ont.

In the fall, Mr. MacKay said the family had spent about $35,000 to keep his wife in Ontario. Despite assistance from the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and others, Mrs. MacKay was considering coming home and giving up her spot on the transplant list because the family was running out of money.

The assistance program is based on a proposal made by the Lung Association to the Health Department earlier this month. Anyone who has had to spend three months or more outside the province to get an insured health service may apply for the funding.

Lung association president Louis Brill, who travelled to Toronto earlier in the year to meet with Ms. MacKay and others in a similar position, said he was pleased Nova Scotia was going to help people facing big costs to get care they can’t get at home.

"We are thrilled (Mr.) d’Entremont has delivered on our proposal," he said in a news release. "We sought assistance for those in need and the government has answered the call."

Mr. Almeda said he believed there were about 10 Nova Scotians awaiting lung transplants in the Toronto area. But he said the help will be available to anyone who had to spend more than three months outside Nova Scotia for care, such as children who need bone marrow transplants.

The assistance will not be retroactive.

In order to provide immediate funding, the program has been created under a "ministerial exception." That means the minister has made the funds available before the creation of a formal policy and cabinet approval.

Mr. Almeda said department staff will meet in January to look at what assistance is offered by other provinces and whether Nova Scotia should help patients with costs other than rent.

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