2 min

The wheels of government move slowly…until they don’t

A couple days ago, I got a note from a friend of mine, linking me to a letter posted on the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project Facebook page. The letter is from David Wilson, minister of health and wellness for the province of Nova Scotia, to one Lucas Thorne-Humphrey. Thorne-Humphrey had written the minister on behalf of NSRAP to discuss what NSRAP viewed as the “health disparities facing trans Nova Scotians,” as well as support from the NS Human Rights Commission and Doctors Nova Scotia to have sex reassignment surgery (SRS) covered by the province.

The letter from the minister, as posted by NSRAP, is as follows.

Dear Mr. Thorne-Humphrey:

Thank you for your letter e-mailed on October 1, 2012, requesting support from the Department of Health and Wellness to remove clause #4.8 from the MSI Physician’s Manual Preamble, which prohibits the approval of billing codes for surgical procedures relating to transgender health in Nova Scotia.
I apologize for the delay in my response. I wanted to ensure that serious consideration was given to your request. Departmental staff was directed to do a careful policy review, including extensive research and consultation with other provinces regarding procedures that are currently insured and the short and long-term health outcomes.
I regret to inform you that due to the lack of high quality scientific evidence to support the efficacy of the long-term outcomes of these procedures and lack of a strong economic argument for their benefit, the department is not in a position to grant your request at this time.
I appreciate your patience and understanding while we have deliberated on this issue.

Original signed by

David. A Wilson

Yesterday, the CBC reported on this story, and this morning, NSRAP’s Kevin Kindred was interviewed on CBC’s Halifax morning news and current affairs program, Information Morning. In his interview with Don Connolly (full disclosure: I have worked at the CBC as a freelancer, including at Info AM), Kindred pointed out that individuals who seek out SRS have to go away and pay thousands of dollars (Kindred mentions that top surgery is roughly $10,000) for the procedure. This means that these individuals are often away from their primary support systems (ie, families and friends) during an important moment in their lives.

I started writing an op-ed about this story and was on my way to file it when I was told that the minister had changed his mind. According to Justin Ling’s story on Xtra,

“Section 4.8 of the province’s health insurance act — the section that bars trans people from having their surgeries covered — will be repealed “immediately."

This is good news for the individuals who wish to undergo SRS, even though it will take time, effort and infrastucture before SRS will be available in Nova Scotia. Their support systems can conceivably be easier to access; their financial, emotional and physical recoveries would be more facile; and it would show that Nova Scotia’s recent amendment to include gender identity and gender expression was more than just an exercise in lip service.

The wheels in government are known to move very slowly. But once in a while, someone gives them a swift kick, leaving them to momentarily surge forward. Let’s hope they keep that momentum going.

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