Seven-year-old Devin Green has been waiting for almost a year for the skin graft surgery she needs to ease her painful chronic ear infections.
"Dear Doug Ford, pls give SickKids the money they need to help me," says her letter to the premier, accompanying a drawing of herself watching other children swim in a pool.
Her mother, Newmarket resident Julie Green, is literally counting the days — with no end in sight — that her daughter has been sitting on a waitlist since April 25, 2022 for ear surgery at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.
Frustrated and concerned by her daughter's continued suffering, Green was prompted to write an open letter to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones, with a copy to Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy, to put a human face to the impact of surgical backlogs in a health-care system that she states desperately needs additional funding.
Her daughter, who is autistic, faces constant pain, hearing loss and additional barriers to learning and development, she said.
Green said she can't recall the last time her daughter slept through the night.
"... your government has put hospitals in a position where they are almost completely restricted to only being able to provide lifesaving care; due to government
underfunding and your refusal to acknowledge the worsening crisis in health care, even that ability has been obstructed," she wrote.
Following the release of the provincial budget last week, Green said, "If responsible, careful spending is truly a main priority for your government, how can you justify a $2.1 billion surplus when hospitals don’t have the resources to do much more than keep people alive? Ontarians deserve better."
“It really is a slap in the face,” Green said, adding the provincial government is failing in “their unwillingness and their inability to acknowledge the suffering of Ontarians and the impacts of the huge backlog."
The letter recounts the Green family's journey to address chronic ear infections for Devin, who is also a cancer survivor.
After the tubes placed in Devin's ears in 2019 at SickKids fell out a month after the surgery, the holes left behind never healed, leading to chronic infections and hearing loss. In February 2021, skin graft surgery was also unsuccessful and, last April, a surgeon determined a second skin graft surgery was required.
"Since then we have been on the emergency cancellation list and waiting in earnest for the chance that my daughter could be free of constant pain and infection," Green said.
"I contacted the surgical clinic at Sick Kids to see if they had any updates. My hopes were crushed as I listened to the clinic liaison tell me — with obvious emotion in her voice — that their resources are so limited they have patients still waiting from 2021. She told me how giving that news to families every single day keeps her up at night because she and the medical team are at a loss for what to do since their requests for the funding and resources to increase their treatment capacity continuously go unanswered," she stated in her letter.
Asked to respond to the letter, Minister of Health spokesperson Hannah Jensen said Minister Sylvia Jones has offered the government’s full support to ramp up pediatric hospital capacity. She added the government has committed $200 million to connect children and youth to care at hospitals in their communities, “including new funding for surgical and diagnostic wait times.”
“As we see pressures faced by our pediatric hospitals in the winter start to stabilize, it is reassuring partners like SickKids are ramping up the delivery of pediatric surgeries to tackle the surgical backlog,” she said. “We will continue to work closely with Ontario Health, the Ontario Critical Care Command Centre, hospitals and health system partners to further alleviate pressures hospitals are facing."
NewmarketToday did not receive a reply to a request for comment from SickKids before publication deadline.
The province faced some criticism regarding the funding of health care and other services after reporting a surplus and planning for a balanced budget next year.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association said the budget continues to march the province toward more private, for-profit health care. The government has received criticism for plans to fund more private clinic surgeries.
“The budget lacks adequate funding for our public health-care system while handing money to private clinics and private home-care providers,” ONA interim president Bernie Robinson said in a news release.
However, some organizations, including the Ontario Medical Association, praised the budget for measures such as $425 million toward mental health care and more spots for Ontario medical students.
“Fixing Ontario’s health-care system will not be quick, easy or cheap, but this budget is on the right track,” the organization said in a news release.
"If you truly believe that reducing Ontario’s debt is more important than repairing holes in a seven-year-old cancer-survivor’s head, then I want an in-person meeting for you to explain that to her face," Green emphasized in her letter.
Green said she received a response from Gallagher Murphy and has a meeting scheduled in a couple of weeks.
But with the ongoing health consequences for her daughter, Green said it has driven her to research out-of-country, private care.
“That, to me, is such a glaring problem,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to think about that. No Canadian should have to think about that.
“I don’t want to live in a country, or a province, where in order to get the care you need just to live a life that’s free of suffering, you have to have funds to pay for it out of country," she added.