Dentist denied payment for Indigenous client to be repaid by government

Health Canada and Alberta Health have reached an agreement to reimburse Dr. Terry Lim for the two dental implants he provided for Summer Dawn White Eagle, a young First Nations woman born with a cleft palate.

Alberta Health says it will split the cost with Health Canada to reimburse Calgary dentist

Summer Dawn White Eagle, 20, was born with a cleft palate and has undergone more than a dozen surgeries and medical procedures to repair it. Her prosthodontist's claim for payment was denied, however Health Canada and Alberta Health have now reached an agreement to reimburse the dentist. (Bryan Labby/CBC News)

Alberta Health says it has reached an "understanding" with Health Canada to reimburse a Calgary dentist who had been denied payment for work he'd done on a First Nations patient. 

Summer Dawn White Eagle, 20, was born with a bilateral cleft palate on the Siksika First Nation in August, 1996.  All children born with a cleft palate in Alberta are covered for the various dental and medical procedures that are necessary to repair the congenital deformity.

But for First Nations patients, the costs are supposed to be covered by both governments. Dr. Terry Lim, White Eagle's dentist, told CBC News the federal program that covers the costs denied payment for White Eagle's two dental implants.

The prosthodontist said he had never been denied a claim for implants for any of his cleft palate patients and feared First Nations children were being treated unfairly.  

Health minister's office responds

Summer Dawn White Eagle, seen here at two-and-a-half months old, was born with a bilateral cleft palate and required numerous surgeries and procedures over 20 years. (Summer Dawn White Eagle/South Family)

A spokesperson for Health Minister Sarah Hoffman sent out a statement Wednesday stating Lim would be covered for the work he did with White Eagle.

"Since this issue came to our attention, health officials have been working with the federal government's Non Insured Health Benefits team. We have reached an understanding to reimburse Dr. Terry Lim for the care he has given this individual," the statement said.

"The final payment will be determined after we receive the bill." 

Earlier this week Health Canada said it had reached an agreement with the province, but Alberta Health only confirmed the details Wednesday. 

Hoffman's spokesperson, Timothy Wilson, said the cost would be split equally between the two levels of government.

Lim said he was owed approximately $3,000 for his work.

About the Author

Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.