Making Prosthetic Devices Available in Canada
For many amputees, accessible prosthetic care is the difference between leading an active, comfortable and confident lifestyle and feeling held back or under-supported by the level of care available. The goal of this page is to outline how prosthetic care is currently handled in Canada, and to show what we are doing (and what you can do) to change it. On the right is our petition, please sign and share if you think that proper prosthetic devices should be made available to all Canadians who require them.
Did you know that many amputees in Canada are paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket to get the limb technology they need? The issue of prosthetic care is one of absolute importance to amputees, and these devices need to be handled as needs rather than luxuries. This video was made to give a very quick overview of what we're explaining here.
Our first hurdle in getting all amputees access to the devices they need is the sheer cost of a prosthesis. High-level prosthetic devices that allow a user to walk up stairs, have a normal gait and less extreme energy expenditure range from $60 000 to $95 000 or more. A prosthetic leg will also need to be replaced every 3-5 years for common technology and every 6-7 for higher technology. Why so much? The premise is similar to why any advanced device is expensive. Developing a prosthetic takes years of labour by highly trained engineers. The cost of this development is staggering, and only increases as the finished product then undergoes testing and approval practices. Even though the material cost of physically building it could only be in the hundreds of dollars, the actual cost includes all that development, and even split among thousands of units, it's still a lot.
So, if the cost of these devices is, for the most part, fixed, it becomes an issue of helping the people who need them pay that price. This is necessary because $60 000 is more than the average Canadian salary, more than university tuition, and an unacceptable burden to place on anyone. Taking into account the fact that people with disabilities often have a lower income makes this a serious problem.
2. Inadequate Programs
Many, despite seeing the brunt cost, would still assume that the medical needs of our citizens are met. However, according to the 2012 Survey on People with Disabilities through Statistics Canada, 44% of those with very severe disabilities reported needing an aid that they did not have, and “regardless of the type of aid required, cost was the most commonly cited reason for unmet needs." This represents a failure to hold to goals Canada is committed to in helping people with disabilities, namely the Canada Health Act, the Minister of Health's mandate, and the UN's mandates on disability.
How has this happened? One reason is that Healthcare is split up provincially, and the provincial programs that aid in funding prosthetic devices are inadequate and vary enormously from province to province. Some provinces have an "all or nothing" policy while others fund a percentage of costs. Ontario's ADP (Assistive Devices Program) in theory funds 75% of costs. In reality, caps on contributions and the cost being assessed individually per component means that the Canadian government may only contribute 40% in total, leaving the amputee to pay the remaining 60% of the bill. Other programs approve a certain pre-selected quality of limb technology based on your claim, but these seldom include the best products.
3. Lack of Information
This story hasn't changed for a long time mostly due to a lack of awareness about these issues. Information on these programs, their specifics, and related statistics is disorganized, non-existent, or hard to access. This lack of statistics and exposure for this issue is the root of these problems, and must be addressed. There is currently not even an official estimate of how many amputees are currently living in Canada, and progress won't come until we understand the scope of this issue.
In a country as innovative and socially advanced as Canada, it is unacceptable to demand that amputees pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket just to be able to participate in society to their full potential.
The price amputees pay if they are denied appropriate technology is as staggering as the potential out-of-pocket cost they face. Even with the level of technology they need, amputees still work harder than the average person to walk or complete tasks; 90% more energy expenditure for an above knee amputee and 300% more for a bilateral amputee. They also use more oxygen, and have to think harder to effectuate a movement. These numbers are with appropriate technology, and worsen when the device doesn't measure up to the amputee's activity level. Together, the extra wear can bring scoliosis, joint problems, and chronic pain. It is proven that users benefit from having better devices, and that it offsets these problems. For Canada, this means higher healthcare costs inn the future to cover pain medications, visits, and procedures that could largely be avoided. Allowing people to meet their full potential would also mean more people confidently joining the workforce instead of relying on governmental income aid programming.
Sign the petition at the top of the page to ask that Parliament and Health Canada to begin an investigation into the current state of prosthetic care in Canada and into statistics relating to the amputee demographic. You can bring equal access to prosthetic devices for all Canadian citizens.