Editor's note: This article was my attempt to summarize, for US readers, some very important advocacy activities of Canadian ostomates in Manitoba, as described in Mike Leverick's online Winnipeg Ostomy Association newsletter. Mike's original material is still online in his Nov/Dec 1995 and Jan/Feb 1996 newsletters, and Jan/Feb 1996 supplement.
The Canadian Province of Manitoba is a pretty good place to live if you have an ostomy, thanks to the "Manitoba Ostomy Plan" (MOP)--an innovative arrangement that provides ostomy supplies at rock-bottom prices and guaranteed access to Enterostomal Therapy (ET) nurses. This plan was threatened recently when the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists lobbied to privatize the system by transferring distribution of ostomy supplies and ostomy counseling to pharmacies. In response, the UOA chapters in Manitoba rallied successfully to save their much-admired plan.
The MOP, established in 1974, distributes ostomy supplies under the
auspices of the provincial government through a centralized 'Home Care
Depot.' This Depot purchases products in huge quantities, obtaining
manufacturers' best discounts. Ostomates order supplies from the Depot
by telephone (using a
In July 1995, members of the Winnipeg UOA chapter learned that the pharmacists' association was lobbying the provincial government to dismantle the MOP. The pharmacists argued that distributing ostomy supplies through pharmacies would give patients greater choice. While this is almost certainly true, it would also tend to drive up costs because individual pharmacies could not obtain the discounts available to the Home Care Depot.
Officers of the Winnipeg and Brandon/Westman UOA chapters then met with Manitoba's Minister of Health, The Hon. James C. McCrae, to express their concerns. The Winnipeg chapter devoted its entire Nov/Dec '95 newsletter to this issue, and designated its Nov 15 meeting as a forum on the subject. At that meeting, attended by more than 80 people, representatives of the pharmacists' association presented their case; however, the ostomates present responded with many well-reasoned questions and voted unanimously in favor of keeping the present system. The Winnipeg and Brandon chapters both mounted large letter-writing campaigns. The President of UOA Canada, Bette Yetman (who lives in Nova Scotia), also weighed in by writing to Health Minister McCrae.
On Dec 18, 1995, Minister McCrae assured UOA officials that the current system would remain as is, and that UOA would be consulted before considering any future changes. Thus, Manitoba's Ostomy Plan, which has been the envy of all ostomates across Canada, survives intact. The incident shows that governments will listen if facts are presented in a clear and understanding manner, and in this time of fiscal restraint, prove they will be a cost-saving measure. The incident also served to increase public understanding of the MOP, and it strengthened bonds between the UOA chapters and ET nurses and various government entities in Manitoba.