Health PEI will cover costs of 3 surgeries for transgender patients

The P.E.I. provincial government will fund three procedures for gender reassignment surgery.

Decision made after Health Minister Doug Currie held meeting with transgender community

The P.E.I. provincial government will fund three procedures for gender reassignment surgery.

Health Minister Doug Currie said the change came after he had a meeting with Ash Arsenault and others from the transgender community last spring.

"We had a wonderful meeting with Ash. He's certainly a real champion of the transgender community," said Currie.

Ash Arsenault says he is pleased Health PEI will be funding three procedures for gender reassignment surgery.
​Arsenault, 23, began his transition from Ashley to Ash a year ago.

He used hormone therapy that has lowered his voice and produced facial hair.

Arsenault recently learned the province would cover three different surgeries for trans people.

"They are actually changing things so that's great. They're going to start offering full coverage of certain procedures that are doable on PEI," said Arsenault.

"It's really great. It's great progress on that front."

Currie said he had a very "powerful discussion" with Arsenault about his journey to where he is, what he was asking for and how the health system would be able to respond to his needs. 

After that meeting, Health PEI was directed to look at the options and possibilities for the necessary surgeries.

It was subsequently approved that Health PEI would perform and cover the cost of mastectomies, hysterectomies, and orchiectomies for transgendered people. Orchiectomy is the medical procedure for the removal of testicles.

"I think what Ash has done here, he's shown incredible courage and leadership and elevated the conversation," said Currie.

"This is a relatively new discussion for Health PEI. So, certainly Health PEI has set a precedent and I'm sure that there will be more of these conversations with Islanders who are looking for the required services."

It is estimated there are 2 or 3 transgender patients per year looking for one or more of the surgeries, at a total cost of less than $5,000.

"It's a procedure that is medically necessary to a certain group of patients," said Dr. Richard Wedge, Chief Executive Officer at Health PEI.

"There are a number of medical procedures that never made it in to we need to bring these procedures along and have them as insured services for Islanders."

There are other reconstructive surgeries that transgender Islanders may want or need to fully transition to the opposite sex.

"We looked at surgeries we were able to do and our current surgical staff have ability to do, and these were the three that were the most likely," said Wedge.

"There are surgeries that are done for example to shave the Adam's apple, and some of those kinds of surgeries for reconstruction that we can't do on PEI."

The government said it is willing to consider covering those surgeries in the future. 

Arsenault had already booked the surgery he wanted done the most before he learned of the decision.

He will travel to Florida to have a double mastectomy in the near future.