PEI

P.E.I. PEERS Alliance 'heartbroken' over news of possible closure of Fredericton clinic

Two P.E.I. groups are reacting strongly to the news that Clinic 554 in Fredericton may be closing.

P.E.I. Transgender Network calls potential closure a 'devastating blow'

About 150 people rallied outside the Department of Health office in Fredericton Friday in support of Clinic 554. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Two P.E.I. groups are reacting strongly to the news that Clinic 554 in Fredericton, N.B. may be closing.

Clinic 554 is the province's only private abortion clinic. It's up for sale and faces impending closure if the provincial government continues to refuse to cover out-of-hospital abortions, the medical director announced Thursday.

Staff at P.E.I.'s PEERS Alliance in Charlottetown say the group is heartbroken by the news.

"I was devastated, I watched the video and I was almost shocked, I couldn't even really believe it," said Rory Starkman, youth services coordinator for the PEERS Alliance.
 
"I had to watch the video again and really keep myself from from from crying because it's so devastating to several communities, to folks who are seeking abortions but in particular with the people that we work with."

'It's incredibly heartbreaking because I know that now I'm going to be taking calls and struggling to be able to refer people somewhere where they can access that care easily,' says Rory Starkman, youth services coordinator for the PEERS Alliance. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"It's incredibly devastating to our transgender community."

Starkman said that for years Clinic 554 has been the only place where transgender Islanders over the age of 16 could go for hormone replacement therapy and other care.

 Without the clinic many transgender Islanders will face long waiting lists for medical care that is not easily available on P.E.I., Starkman said.

"It's incredibly heartbreaking because I know that now I'm going to be taking calls and struggling to be able to refer people somewhere where they can access that care easily."

Rory Starkman of the PEERS Alliance reads one of the online petitions lobbying to keep Clinic 554 open. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"We're advocating right now on the Island, getting doctors on the Island to be able to prescribe so that folks don't have to travel off Island but in the interim we were very grateful to have Clinic 554 be there," Starkman said.

Starkman said they don't know the exact number of Prince Edward Islanders who have been accessing the Fredericton clinic but the organization is trying to find that out.

'Devastating blow'

Ash Arsenault of the P.E.I. Transgender Network calls the potential closure of the clinic a "devastating blow".

"For many trans Islanders, the Clinic 554 was the only viable medical resource available and in fact the only place in the Maritimes that operates on a modern and effective model," Arsenault wrote, in a statement to CBC. 

"If it closes, many will have to face extremely long waits, evaluations and referrals across provinces."

The impending closure of the privately funded abortion clinic has become a federal election issue.

Clinic 554 is home to a family practice that provides transgender and LGBTQ care, as well as abortions. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May attended a rally in support of Clinic 554 in Fredericton Friday afternoon.

The issue also came up Thursday night during the final leaders' debate of the election campaign.

The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society is also speaking out about issue, calling on the provincial government to live up to its legal obligations and support Clinic 554.

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