Improved child health services needed, says Prince Edward Island dad

Jim Day
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Jeff Matheson is pushing the province to improve child physical medicine services for for Islanders like his young daughter Vaeda who has hemiplegic cerebral palsy.

Jeff Matheson calling on province to update child physical policy and hire more therapists

Jeff Matheson simply wants what is best for his daughter.

And for his young girl Vaeda, who has hemiplegic cerebral palsy, that means improved child physical medicine services in P.E.I.

Matheson strongly believes the services in the province fall well short for many special needs children like his daughter, who turns three in June.

Vaeda, for instance, went almost one full year without receiving any therapy from an occupational therapist.

Matheson says early child physical medicine policy in P.E.I. hasn’t been seriously discussed since the 1980s. Currently, adults here with sprained wrists have better access to therapy and rehabilitation than the more than 150 children aged five and younger who have chronic and complex needs.

Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. Richard Wedge says the desire is to improve a range of services, from occupational therapy to speech-language therapy, for children with chronic illnesses.

Health P.E.I. has hired a therapist to work three days a week to complement the current full-time therapist. Also, Health P.E.I. is looking to hire a co-ordinator to help identify gaps in the service, he adds.

Matheson says these initiates are inadequate. He and others are calling on Health P.E.I. to hire two full-time therapists, one physiotherapist and one occupational therapist to help Island children with special needs receive more therapy.

Matheson estimates more than 250 people, from parents of special needs children to general supporters, have sent emails to Health P.E.I. pushing for more early child physical medicine services in the province.

Mike Redmond, leader of the NDP Party of P.E.I., recently added his voice to the call.

“How is it that adults who require physical therapy can access two appointments per week, while children get only one appointment per month?’’ he asked in a statement.

“This is completely unacceptable.’’

Redmond notes intensive physiotherapy during the preschool years could help keep Vaeda out of a wheelchair but the level of service offered by Health P.E.I. is putting that outcome in jeopardy.

Matheson says he and other parents simply want to maximize the mobility of children with chronic conditions, such as Vaeda’s cerebral palsy.

Early intervention, he adds, pays great dividends in the physical development of a child with a chronic condition.

“(Health) Minister Doug Currie needs to address this gap in services right away to ensure that children with such demanding health circumstances receive the appropriate level of care,’’ said Redmond.

“Our children deserve the same level of service as adults. There is no silver bullet for cerebral palsy, but early, aggressive intervention certainly improves quality of life later on.’’

Organizations: Health P.E.I., NDP Party

Geographic location: June.Vaeda

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Recent comments

  • Ann
    March 07, 2014 - 13:20

    My daughter age 11 has spinal muscular atrophy and has no access to regular physio to help with keeping the muscle she has. All because they (the therapists) don't know what do do for her. They see her 2x and say if I feel she needs more give them a call. Or they just start cancelling appointments and rescheduling them until finally stop rescheduling them. The little bit of therapy these children recieves ends when they turn 6. Then you have to rely on "the adult system" or if you have a broken arm they know whst to do for you. Other then thst you are on your own

  • Tapped-out taxpayer
    March 06, 2014 - 09:36

    More from government! More from government! More from government!

    • Dundas Sue
      March 06, 2014 - 10:27

      The reality is , tapped out taxpayer, that the more we spend now in children like this man's daughter the more productive she will be in adulthood and less dependent upon government programs. When money is tight we dont spend it on dirt hills, parties and expensive trips - we priorotize and people in need should be the highest priority - saving kmoney and lives in the long run is a better investment and the mark of an enlightened society.

    • Fed Up
      March 06, 2014 - 20:38

      We've got a greedy, selfish government watching the coffers. I/you/we all pay ridiculous amounts of taxes on PEI for little to no services. We should not scrimp when it comes to the health of our children. Maybe the next time the Finance Minister buys a bottle of water for $1.50, he won't get someone to fill in an expense report on it! Unbelievable.

  • Parent
    March 06, 2014 - 09:27

    Is anyone surprised by this? Doug Currie does not care about the youth of PEI. He cares about votes. There are children on PEI that are suffering from the disease of addiction. Currie was in the paper a few weeks ago bragging about how the wait for detox was improved. He failed to mention that there is currently a 69 WEEK wait for methadone treatment and that they are taking on ONE new patient per week. Detoxing without immediate followup treatment leads to stronger addictions and he knows this. They have created a "spin cycle" that guarantees that your tax dollars will be wasted and you can bet the rates of hepatitis C will continue to grow. He knows these facts from his zillion studies and yet, what has he done to really improve the situation? NOTHING. Ghiz could cancel one of his trips to China and use the money to positively change the health of kids on PEI but he chooses not to do this. Why? Because votes are more important to him that the children of PEI.

  • MJ
    March 06, 2014 - 08:04 Send Health PEI and the Provincial Government a message of public support for more Early Child Physical Medicine services at QEH

  • Ruth Mallett
    March 06, 2014 - 07:15

    I also agree with Jeff on this one. My Granddaughter also suffers from C.P. and has to travel to Halifax for treatments. Not only would I like to see more health care provided for these children. I don't think they should have to pay the bridge toll. Government should provide that fee since they can't provide that service here.Anytime your child needs something you have to fight the health care to get it and then it takes months.Why is our health care treating these children like this.My son has to pay from 8-10 thousand a year in expense to help his daughter it's time the Island government helped a bit. free health care not for special need kids.

  • Proud supporter
    March 06, 2014 - 06:57

    To support this very important cause please visit This shouldn't be a problem, our island's children need to be taken care of!