Hepatitis C sufferers still waiting on Ottawa promises

It’s been three months since Ottawa promised $1 billion in compensation to  Canadian hepatitis C victims who contracted the disease…

It’s been three months since Ottawa promised $1 billion in compensation to  Canadian hepatitis C victims who contracted the disease through tainted blood transfusions.

“Three months may not sound like a long time, but it is when you are very ill and in need of financial assistance,” Jane Dyson, a spokeswoman with the hepatitis C Compassion Umbrella, said in a release.

“An announcement is not enough,” said Dyson.

“It is unconscionable to announce assistance and then not follow through quickly with this much-needed financial support.”

The compensation package Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in July was intended for hepatitis C victims who were excluded from a previous federal program that paid people who contracted the disease between 1986 and 1990.

“The money hasn’t flowed yet,” said Patricia Bacon, executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions in Whitehorse.

“It would be a big relief for anybody dealing with long-term chronic illness to get compensation or at least the recognition that they were unintentionally infected,” said Bacon.

“It won’t solve all their problems, but at least it’s a recognition from the government that they were unintentionally infected and there needs to be some restitution for what happened to them.

“I think it’s good that Harper made an announcement that there will be some compensation for them.

“Let’s move forward, and let’s do it quickly, as opposed to doing this over three years or whatever.

“Let’s see the money flow as soon as possible.”

Payments to Yukon sufferers of hepatitis C should flow directly from Ottawa to the victims, she added.

Dyson’s Vancouver-based organization urged Ottawa to provide an interim emergency relief fund.

It claims that a $75-million fund would provide $20,000 to about 3,750 Canadians who need the money to buy medication and support themselves and their families, and could be deducted from any future compensation payments a hepatitis C sufferer might receive.