Health P.E.I. could soon be feeling some pressure to improve physical medicine services for children thanks to a new petition campaign.
Jeff Matheson and Lorrie Jollimore, whose two-year-old daughter Vaeda Matheson needs physical therapy, were part of a news conference Tuesday urging people to support their efforts to get Health P.E.I. to increase its budget for the services.
Matheson said he is raising the issue because he wants his daughter to have the best start in life that she can.
“Any parent you want the best for your child,” he said.
Vaeda had a stroke in the womb that caused weakness in one side of her body and she needs therapy to help her to walk.
She had to wait and went almost a full year without receiving any therapy to improve her fine motor skills.
Now Jeff hopes other Islanders will support their cause because they say Health P.E.I.’s early childhood physical medicine budget doesn’t allow Island children to get the amount of physical therapy they need.
“People are generally shocked to find out adults with sprained wrists and minor injuries have better access to physiotherapy than a child who cannot yet walk,” he said.
Jollimore said the more therapy children get the better the outcome for them in the long term.
“In our case Vaeda doesn’t walk yet so it could mean that she walks years before she may have on her own without that particular therapy,” she said.
Vaeda gets therapy two or three times a month while adults get therapy on a weekly basis, Jollimore said.
“It needs to be at least once a week,” she said.
Health P.E.I. previously said it hired a therapist to work three days a week to complement the current full-time therapist and is looking to hire a coordinator to help find gaps in the service.
NDP leader Mike Redmond was also involved in the news conference and said it’s a case where early intervention will lead to better health outcomes.
“This is a no brainer as far as we’re concerned,” he said.
The petitions are available at P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities offices in Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague.
Along with the petition, Islanders are able to send messages to Health P.E.I. through the website www.helppei.com to push for the hiring of a full-time physiotherapist and full-time occupational therapist.
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.
© Guardian photo by Jim Day