Nfld. & Labrador

Transition-related surgery assessments now available in N.L.

Until now, people requiring the surgery had to travel to Toronto to be assessed.

Provincial government releases list of approved health-care professionals

Gemma Hickey says the change removes a barrier to health care for transgender people. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

People requiring transition-related surgery will no longer have to leave Newfoundland and Labrador for readiness assessments. 

The provincial government announced Monday morning that people can have their assessments done by health-care professionals in N.L. A list of approved professionals is available on the Department of Health and Community Services' website.

"We know it has taken some time to get here. We wanted to get it right," Health Minister John Haggie told reporters in St. John's on Monday.

"We wanted to hear what people with lived experience had to say and we wanted to ensure we were being fair and inclusion," said Haggie. 

Previously, anyone requiring insured transition-related surgery had to travel to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto for the assessment.

Most people will still have to travel outside of N.L. for the surgery itself, but the insured portions will be covered under N.L.'s Medical Care Plan, and financial assistance for travel is available.

"We wanted to be sure that in the end we designed a process that helps those who may need it, by removing unnecessary barriers that they may face," Haggie said.

"So starting today people will no longer have to travel out of province for readiness assessments."

Health Minister John Haggie said starting immediately people will not have to leave the province for readiness assessments.  (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Readiness assessments should include, as recommended by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care:

  • The client's general identifying characteristics.
  • Results of the client's psychosocial assessment, including any diagnoses.
  • The duration of the mental health professional's relationship with the client including the type of evaluation and therapy or counselling to date.
  • An explanation that the criteria for surgery have been met.
  • A brief description of the clinical rational for supporting the patient's request for surgery.
  • A statement about the fact that informed consent has been obtained from the patient.
  • A statement that the mental health professional is available for co-ordination of care.

Activist Gemma Hickey applauded the change in policy.

"It's an amazing day. It's a historic day. We've all worked hard to get to this day," said Hickey. 

I feel that it's one less barrier for transgender individual which is really, really important."

"I'm proud of this government for working so diligently to ensure that transgender individuals have not only equal protection and rights under the law, but also one less barrier when it comes to our health.

Haggie said that for those who are on the current wait list for assessment in Toronto can choose to continue to remain on that list, or make the change to be put on a the list in Newfoundland and Labrador.  

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn