author: taylor balfour | news writer
LGBT community looking to be more involved in new health care region
2017 has already been a step in the right direction for members and supporters of the LGBT community. Earlier in January, the government announced that they were combining their 12 health regions into one to cover the entire province.
Joe Wickenhauser, who is the executive director for Moose Jaw Pride, believes that this is an opportunity to better benefit the LGBT community. Wickenhauser told the Leader-Post that he believes this move “is an excellent opportunity for us to make positive changes, and to develop an LGBT inclusion strategy and to ensure that the vast health disparities which affect the LGBT community in Saskatchewan can be addressed.”
His vision, as well as the vision for Moose Jaw Pride as a whole, is to have a member of the LGBT community be “appointed to the Board of Directors, which will govern the new Provincial Health Authority” as Moose Jaw’s very own Times Herald reports.
On Moose Jaw Pride’s website, Wickenhauser also has stated that “there are many qualified leaders within the LGBT community who could contribute immeasurably to the governance of the Provincial Health Authority.”
According to Leah Tank, one of two co-presidents for Campbell Collegiate’s Queer Straight Alliance [QSA], the move is one that will greatly help with support that the community needs and deserves.
“It is absolutely essential for Saskatchewan to have LGBT specific advocates in the healthcare system, especially when it comes to transgender individuals in Saskatchewan. Many of these people require information and access to services that are very unique,” Tank states. “These services might include things such as a psychiatrist’s approval for hormones or information on top and bottom surgery. For a parent of a transgender child in Saskatchewan, it can often feel like there is a lack of support specific to the healthcare system. While there are amazing groups to support these parents otherwise, Saskatchewan is definitely lacking when it comes to access to gender diverse medical information.”
The National Post ran an article in 2012 that reported that “Canadians living in Manitoba or Saskatchewan and in Alberta are least likely to know someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” and claims that cities with higher gay populations are in locations like Montreal, Vancouver, or Toronto. They also claim that citizens of Saskatchewan as well as Alberta and Manitoba, were “the least supportive of same-sex marriage,” Leah continues. “Currently, the lack of access to these services allows patients to fall through the cracks of the system.”
These cracks may have something to do with the LGBT suicide rates in Canada, with Egale, the Canadian Human Rights Trust, reporting that “33 per cent of LGB youth have attempted suicide in comparison to 7 per cent of youth in general” as well as that “LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.” This provides less care and treatment for patients and individuals in communities that need it most.
“Additionally, it is a known fact that people in the LGBT community are at a higher risk for mental health issues. Unfortunately, suicide rates are disproportionately high for lesbian, gay and transgender people,” Tank continues. “If we want to make a change in these statistics on the mental health of LGBT people, it would be extremely beneficial to have an advocate working with the health care system. The presence of an advocate would provide Saskatchewan with desperately needed services. This would especially benefit psychiatrists, doctors, and nurses, and allow them to better treat their patients.”
LGBT youth are also reported to have dealt with bullying and harassment, with Egale claiming that “68 per cent of trans students, 55 per cent of LB students and 42 per cent of GB students” have reported, as of 2013, “being verbally harassed about their perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.” Twenty per cent have reported been “physically harassed or assaulted” with “49 per cent of trans students, 33 per cent of lesbian students and 40 per cent of gay male students have experienced sexual harassment in school in the last year,” that year being 2013. “Doctors, nurses, and health care providers have the responsibility to treat their patients to the best of their ability. With an LGBT advocate working to improve these services, we would be able to increase the standard of care for people who don’t have a voice,” Tank continues.
Giving LGBT individuals a representative in healthcare and government would be a major step toward equality and a greater range of acceptance.
“If Saskatchewan were to support LGBT specific health services, it would be a huge step for equality throughout the province,” Tank states. “Due to the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, many people believe that equality has been achieved when this is not true.”
Moose Jaw Pride claimed on their website, “in 2016, a Saskatoon physician was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for telling a patient that being transgender is ‘an abomination’ and ‘a perversion.’” The Saskatoon Star Phoenix did a report on the incident, stating that the doctor “said in relation to transgender people that ‘it would be the end of the world because there would be no more females or males to reproduce.’”
They continued with a report that in May of 2016, “the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health issued a $20,000 settlement for a Human Rights complaint filed by a transgender woman. She was told she would have to undergo surgery in order to have her identity documents reflect her gender, but was successful in having the requirements overturned.”
The province has a long way to go before proudly being able to say that LGBT individuals are equal in every way, but placing a member on the Saskatchewan government’s Provincial Health Authority may be a step in right direction to kick off 2017.
If Moose Jaw Pride is able to complete such a revolutionary task, then, as Tank stated, it “would be a wonderful way to move our province forward.”