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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125
hansard November 21, 2001


Ontario Hansard Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Question Period


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): My question is for the Minister of
Health. The brand new Consumer Coalition for Access to Audiological Services
came to Queen's Park today. The coalition represents deaf adults,
heard-of-hearing seniors and the families of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
They were here to tell you that three months after you made your cuts to
hearing assessments, the results have been disastrous.

Bev Biderman was here. She now has to pay out of her own pocket to maintain the
cochlear implant that allows her to hear and speak. She said your government
clearly puts no value on hearing or speech. The parents of two-year-old
Harrison Quesnel were here. They have spent $300 on hearing services for their
deaf son since the end of August and will have to spend $500 or $600 per year
until their son is 16, just for assessments. That's in addition to what they
will spend for hearing aids, ear moulds, batteries and other hearing

Minister, last night in this place we debated your government's disabilities
act. I ask you today, why do you give lip service to a concern for those with
disabilities but deny basic services to the deaf and the hard-of-hearing?

Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I want to assure this
House that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we still have
insured services involving audiology, involving hearing tests and involving
specialists who have access to OHIP. That has been the case for at least the
last 30 years and it will be the case in the future as well.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, I admit you've caught me by surprise. Maybe you're not
aware that you made some slight change to your OHIP schedule for audiology,
today, hot off the presses, in view of the fact you're going to be in court on
this matter on Monday.

Unfortunately the changes you've made are minimal changes. Of the $7.7 million
you cut in audiology services to children and to seniors, you're maybe
restoring $2 million of that. You've done nothing to restore publicly funded
hearing evaluations or re-evaluations, nothing for cochlear implants, nothing
for the Bev Bidermans of Ontario.

I suggest to you that the only reason you've made this last-minute change today
is because you are going to be in court on Monday. You're being taken to court
by the Ontario Association for the Deaf, the Ontario Cochlear Implant Support
Group, the Voice for Hearing Impaired Children, the Canadian Hearing Society,
the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and a number of deaf and
hard-of-hearing individuals. I think Dr Nedzelski of Sunnybrook hospital sums
up the position of all these groups and individuals when he says your cuts are
reprehensible and unfair because people's hearing problems are compounded
because of them.

Minister, why would you rather fight the deaf and the hard-of-hearing in court
than deal with them fairly now?

Hon Mr Clement: I don't choose to deal with them in that way. I would certainly
like to continue whatever dialogue -- it's difficult to have a dialogue when you
are the defendant in a civil lawsuit, so it prevents me from having the discussion
I would like to have with them.

The fact of the matter is that in the discussions that have taken place it
became clear, as a result of statements by Liberals and by other opposition
parties, that there was some uncertainty. We cleared up the uncertainty and
there has been a lot more satisfaction when we did so. I can only reiterate to
this House that hearing tests and evaluations and all of these other aspects of
audiology and hearing are still covered under OHIP. They have been covered
under OHIP for a number of years and they will continue to be so.



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