© Guardian photo by Jim Day
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.’’