Better prosthetic coverage and amputee care in Canada!

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I am writing today to bring your attention to a reality that I think most people are not aware of, and lacks support on many levels within our country. 

I am an amputee and am learning that following the great care and support received when I first began my journey to recovery, the system has now become one of the greatest obstacles in overcoming the return to a normal (yet different) quality of life. 

Most amputees are a result of illness, like diabetes, an infection or cancer, etc. not a work accident or motor vehicle accident. After what can be a very prolonged and difficult battle, for both the patient and family members, it is almost as if you are being abandoned. You feel abandoned because your struggle changes from one of trying to survive and return to a productive member of society, to one of financial struggle and to maintain being a productive member of society with some quality of life. It’s as if you are being punished for getting sick.

Prosthetics are an essential component for an amputee. The media likes to show us how great prosthetics are now with computers, how they simulate the joints, etc. Reality is that although some great technology exists and improving all the time, 90% of amputees do not have access to this technology due to the expense. In fact they’d VERY RARELY have affordable access to basic function prosthetics.

Should you be lucky enough to have private insurance, the funding is limited, but it helps. If you are reliant on government insurance (like Pharmacare in BC) the funding is limited to the cheapest prosthetic to maintain “basic functionality”. And even then the patient is being billed for BASIC FUNCTION!

What does “basic functionality” mean? There is no clarity on the definition of what this entails. As an example, for a person with a leg amputation this means one prosthetic to do “everything”, however the foot is rated for walking and that is it! If you dare to be an athletic or outdoor amputee the costs are unimaginable. And don’t even think of dreaming of a backup leg! You know in case of emergency. 

Imagine your prosthetic leg malfunctioning or breaking and have no backup. To get funding from private or public insurance, the normal process is to have an estimate and justification done by your prosthetist, possibly have a doctor approve or sign it, then submit it to the insurance or government agency and then wait for a response… Typically, this funding is reviewed by a board to see if you qualify for funding, which can take weeks or months sometimes. As the rules seem subjective as to what might be needed, you are at the mercy of what these boards might think you need based on a generic model (a board or able bodied people might I add). Every amputee is unique and incomparable in our needs. 

It feels like you are begging to have your body complete, and you are not even given the opportunity to state your case for your needs. All the while you are supposed to keep working, functioning, caring for the kids, family, etc.  If you get your prosthetic fixed and then submit your claim, it will be denied, these expenses must be pre approved. And other times you are “approved” by insurance, go ahead with adjustments and then are billed because gifts pharmacare decided to cover less than half of a nearly $6,000 bill.

Charities such as The War Amps of Canada provide limited assistance and help advocate for these needs for adult amputees but is a charity responsible to provide prosthetics to Canadians? Charities should be helping with the exceptional cases, not all cases. And these charities are constantly catching heat for not being able to help everyone.

One of the biggest obstacles amputees must overcome when recovering from limb loss is uncertainty. 

 “Am I going to get through this?” “What will life be like if I make it?” and the anxiety it creates. This is why people fight depression and suicide when going through the limb loss. Fighting the system once you have survived the experience just brings back all those negative feelings you had during your recovery. It is no wonder that people lose hope. Our society, for how much good it can do, can also be its own worst enemy. There is no recovery from losing a limb. Your wounds heal, and hopefully you regain some resemblance of mobility but as this is a lifelong journey, the periods of good mental health can vary dependant on prosthetic components, support and funding. We all know the value of the relationship between physical activity and mental health. Imagine what having a functional prosthetic limb can do for increasing quality of life for an amputee…. all Canadians are worthy of having access to mobility and the opportunity to contribute to their community.   

So, I am writing to you to ask you to help change the system.

 Help change the system to be more accepting and responsive to the needs of amputees. Help minimize the “red tape” to be able to just function. Remove the uncertainty and burden of the financial commitment required to maintain being a productive member of society. 

Isn’t this the true meaning of accessibility for all individuals? 

Can I count on your advocacy and support for a better system

If you would like to help, or are in need of help with prosthetic care and coverage please email Amp Unify Canada at amp.unity.canada@gmail.com