We know that people from food insufficient households are more likely to have poor health outcomes – they have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure for example.
We’ve also talked before about the fact that an individual living on social assistance (592$/mo) scarcely has enough for rent and transportation, let alone nutritious food for the month.
Enter the special diet allowance. A sum of money that physicians could “prescribe” depending on one’s medical condition. Cardiovascular disease for example, earned you 10$, soya allergies, 83$. But as of the end of July of this year, the program was “restructured” and many people were no longer eligible. Those who were still eligible faced reduced benefits. The province said the cuts were a result of abuse of the program. They cite the fact that costs rose from $5 million in 2003 to 67 million in 2009. Anti-poverty advocates say that this simply reflects people becoming aware of the program and claiming what was rightfully theirs. Dr. Wong was one of many doctors across the province who filled out special diet forms. Actually, he says he’s filled out 15,000 of them, sometimes at clinics organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. And yet, he also says that the forms were always filled out with due diligence. In what many have described as an intimidation tactic, a complaint was made by none other than Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). Ford went as far as to say, “a doctor is there to be a doctor, not to advocate for the poor…” On October 3rd, Dr. Wong faces a disciplinary hearing in front of the college of physicians and surgeons which could leave him without a license. On today’s episode of Health Justice Radio, we speak with Dr. Wong about his anti-poverty analysis, about activism in an often conservative profession, and about his upcoming hearing. He says he still fills out a few forms for patients he’s known longterm: “Its medical malpractice not to help them, its my duty.”