Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Kevin Libin, National Post
Published: Thursday, May 08, 2008
CALGARY -After being cut out of federal compensation funds before, and waiting for promised medical help that never showed up, some of Canada’s “forgotten” hepatitis C victims are understandably skeptical they’ll see a penny from the Conservative government’s latest pledge to tainted-blood victims. Unfortunately, they may be right.
“I don’t believe I’ll get anything in the end,” confessed Vikki Boddy of Lethbridge, Alta., who contracted the blood-borne illness through a transfusion in 1984 and has sought federal recompense for over a decade. She says the effects of hep C cost her her job at 35, and medication — one prescription costs nearly $2,000 a month — has driven her family to bankruptcy, twice. She predicts she’ll die without seeing remuneration.
Almost two years ago, the Conservatives announced a nearly $1-billion settlement for roughly 6,000 “forgotten victims” — those infected from the blood supply before 1986 and after 1990. They had been shut out of a $1.2-billion deal the former Liberal government offered hep C and HIV patients infected between the two dates. Announcing the new fund in 2006, the Conservatives suggested victims could see money within six months. Nearly two years later, many say they haven’t seen dollar one.
“What they do is give you the waiting game. They hope you’ll die, frankly,” said Jacqui Lemmon, of Oshawa, who has been fighting on behalf of infected family members. Unlike Ontario’s class -action settlement for victims of E. coli poisoning in Walkerton, where survivors, once cured, could await a payout, she says, hep C is degenerative and frequently lethal, so “people continue to die waiting for their money.”
Thousands have already died waiting for federal money. Transfers to the provinces under the mid-nineties’ “care instead of cash” program, supposedly to defray patients’ medical costs, never found its way to victims. Predictably, some are now cynical enough to float sinister theories, suggesting the government — which gets back any unclaimed funds — is waiting out the victims. More likely, say lawyers close to the case, Crawford may be struggling to keep up with application volumes. They think things are moving at a reasonable pace. But that’s going by lawyer time. Tainted-blood victims may not be able to afford to be as patient.
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