Saint John man fighting for wheelchair repairs

A Saint John man whose powered wheelchair needs about $2,300 in repairs due to water damage says he can't afford it and the government refuses to pay.

Jared St. Germain says government refuses to pay $2,300, blaming him for water damage

A Saint John man with cerebral palsy is fighting to get about $2,300 in repairs to his powered wheelchair.

Jared St. Germain, 29, is dependent on the chair for movement outside his apartment and survives on a fixed income.

The Department of Social Development paid for his wheelchair in July 2012.

But for the past few months, it's been making quirky jumps and has been operating at half its normal speed, severely restricting his mobility.

Jared St. Germain says he needs about $2,300 worth of repairs to the motorized wheelchair provided to him by the province. (CBC)
"Health services is saying that it's all my fault; that I got this joystick wet and it got water damage," from travelling city streets, he said.

The Department of Social Development says it cannot comment on individual cases for privacy reasons. But in a statement, department spokesperson Jean-François Pelletier said "The department will always do repairs as long as the equipment provision agreement is respected."

Under the agreement, a client must agree to care for equipment as instructed and to not abuse or misuse the equipment in any way, said Pelletier.

There is no appeal process to decisions related to the health services program, he said.

Still, the Premier's Council on the Status of Disabled Persons and Ability New Brunswick both say the department has generally been "fair" in its handling of such requests.

St. Germain has been trying to find an agency willing to cover the repairs, but says he's getting nowhere.

"Everybody's saying 'No.' Where I'm concerned, this is a last resort. If I don't get anything here, from this news broadcast, I'm screwed," he said.

The chair appears to be getting worse and he's not scheduled to get a new one until July 2017, he said.

St. Germain has appealed to MLA Trevor Holder. Office staff say they are looking into the matter.