Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ontarians Not Getting Federal Hep C Money

Federal money for Ontario Hep C victims being re-directed
Last Updated Sat, 02 Oct 2004 09:07:51 EDT

TORONTO - Ontarians who contracted hepatitis C from bad blood in the early
eighties will not be getting any federal money that was promised to them.

About 5,000 Canadians got hepatitis C from tainted blood before 1984. The
federal government promised them $300 million to cover out-of-pocket
expenses for healthcare not provided by provincial programs. Ontario's share
was $132 million.

The province's health minister, George Smitherman, has announced the money
will be used to pay for care that usually comes free under medicare.

"I do think there's been an attempt over time to redefine the purposes for
the money that has been flowed," said Smitherman.

A lawyer for Hepatitis C victims is calling it theft. David Harvey says
Smitherman should read the news release put out by then-federal health
minister, Allan Rock, when he announced the $300 million package in 1998.

"That money was to provide access to needed medical care no currently
covered by provincial healthcare programs. That's right out of the Health
Canada news release," said Harvey.

Ontario's Liberal government issued its news release late Friday to avoid
any publicity about the issue. The Conservative opposition say they will
keep the issue alive until the health minister answers their questions.