Activist says Manitoba Health was 'deceitful' to withhold chiropractic report
Pat Chevrier sought report in 2007 freedom-of-information request
An activist who tried for years to get a copy of a report into chiropractic care in Manitoba says the government was "deceitful" in denying her access to the report.
The findings of the 2004 report by the Manitoba Chiropractic Health Care Commission were kept under wraps until the CBC News I-Team recently obtained a leaked copy.
The commission was tasked with reviewing the cost effectiveness of publicly funded chiropractic services and found those services should have strict limits. It made 37 recommendations.
Pat Chevrier spent about five years trying to get a copy of the commission's report but was told in a letter from Manitoba Health, "The report was not compiled into a final document for dissemination purposes."
"It's very deceitful," Chevrier told CBC News.
"I don't know why the government would spend taxpayers' dollars to commission a report and then ignore the report. Boggles my brain," Chevrier said.
Her interest in the report arose from her son's experience suffering harm after receiving chiropractic treatments, she said.
Chevrier filed a freedom-of-information request seeking a copy of the commission's report in 2007 under the former NDP government. After Manitoba Health turned her down, she filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsman.
The ombudsman's office finally closed the file in 2012 — five years after Chevrier's initial request.
'The public has a right to know'
"I was surprised that you have the recommendations and the advice from the commission," she said after seeing the CBC News story Thursday.
Chevrier said the government should release the report in full.
"The public has a right to know," she said.
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Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard tried to help Chevrier during her five-year battle with Manitoba Health to get the document. He believes the report should have been made public then and it still should be now.
"It should have been released. It has important information. It would have been a much more productive for it to be released shortly after it's produced. It's important for the public," Gerrard said. "It's also important for chiropractors to know what's being said about them, so if they believe that it's not accurate, they can put forward their views."
The president of the Manitoba Chiropractors Association, which regulates the profession, has declined comment.
Laura Brownson, a member of the group who was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke after a chiropractic neck manipulation, said the government's denying access to the report was "despicable."
She noted that her problems with chiropractic came in 2010, years after the government received the report urging caution around some types of chiropractic treatment.
Brownson said the report's recommendation that chiropractors should not have X-ray machines in their offices is particularly significant.
"I've talked to people who are having their children X-rayed monthly, being told that there is something not normal in the child's spine or in the child's neck," Brownson said.
The report concluded, "Where appropriate, in specific 'red flag' situations, chiropractic patients should be referred to a licensed radiologist professional for X-ray."
"The cost of routine use of X-rays should not be covered because there is insufficient evidence in the literature of their efficacy or safety," the report said.
The province currently subsidizes patients up to 12 chiropractic visits a year for spinal and pelvic adjustments, and adjustments of the extremities.
Report too old to be relevant?
Chevrier said she's not "anti-chiropractic," meaning she believes the profession can be helpful for people with lower back pain.
But she says it's time the Manitoba government stopped subsidizing chiropractic treatments.
In 2016, the province paid out $11.9 million for claims from 166,897 patients.
Manitoba Health was not immediately able to provide a response due to the passage of time since the report was issued.
"It's quite an old report from what I understand," said Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen when asked if he would release the 2004 report. "And you know reports from the last 15 years ago might not be as relevant."
When asked about the specific recommendation that the province not fund visits for anyone 18 and under Goertzen replied, "We've seen different reports that have different opinions."
The province is currently in talks with chiropractors about the future of the subsidy.
The CBC I-Team renewed calls to the Manitoba Chiropractors Association for comment. There was no response.
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