Physical therapy funding boost for kids not enough, says father

A P.E.I. man is frustrated with what he calls inadequate support for children who need physical therapy, despite previous support in the legislature.

'We really have a year - a year and five months, whatever - of rehabilitation, before the services are cut'

Jeff Matheson's daughter Vaeda has cerebral palsy. He says physical therapy is key to her quality of life. (CBC)

A P.E.I. father is frustrated with what he calls inadequate support for kids who need physical therapy, despite previous support in the legislature.

Jeff Matheson's daughter has cerebral palsy. In 2014, he started a petition asking government to commit to improving access to physical medical services like occupational therapy and physiotherapy for kids up to the age of 18.  

A motion based on the petition was tabled in the P.E.I. legislature and passed in June with unanimous support.

Jeff Matheson is concerned services for his daughter will stop when she starts school. (CBC)

But Matheson said not much has changed.

"The government has committed, basically, $392,000 this year to address this service gap," he said.

"That's literally 0.06 per cent of the operating budget of $600 million. To me, that doesn't make things a priority whatsoever."

Service changes at school age

Matheson is concerned his four-year-old daughter will see a dramatic reduction in physical medical resources once she reaches school age.

"Right now there's nothing that tells me she won't be removed from the department when she's six," he said.

"So we really have a year — a year and five months, whatever — of rehabilitation, before the services are cut."

Health PEI is still working to improve physical therapy services for children, says Kelley Rayner. (CBC)

Health PEI said the funding introduced since the petition have made a difference. New positions have been created and more funding allocated for children with complex needs.

"We identified a huge gap in service," said Kelley Rayner, director of hospital services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

"That investment of funding, it has been able to provide us to an acceptable standard of care."

Petition process questioned

The work is not yet complete, said Rayner. A steering committee is working to identify priorities for Island children with special needs. Once that's done, Health PEI will look at expanding physical medical services for school-aged children.

But Matheson is also frustrated with the petition process on the Island, saying the motion based on his petition hasn't been brought up again since it passed with unanimous support.

He thinks the government should be obligated to provide an update to petitioners on progress that's being made.

As it stands now, Matheson said, petitions can sometimes disappear into the ether — and he said that makes them pointless.


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