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Yukon senior says she’s waited months to hear if the government will cover prosthetic leg

‘There are things happening here that should not be happening’
Bonnie Dalziel sits in her living room quilting in Whitehorse on April 12, 2018. Dalziel has been waiting to find out if the territorial government would pay for a new prosthetic leg, but in the meantime, her old leg is failing her. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

A Whitehorse senior whose prosthetic leg collapsed from underneath her while she waited to find out if the territorial government would pay for a new one says she’s still waiting.

Bonnie Dalziel said the specialist she was sent to see in Victoria warned that her prosthetic leg was old and could give out at any moment.

When it did just that about 10 days ago she was left on the floor in her bedroom for hours before she managed to drag herself to her bed, get up and call for help.

Dalziel said she’s been waiting months to hear whether or not the cost of her new leg will be covered by the government.

The territory’s health minister blames some of the delay on efforts to hire someone new in the department.

Dalziel said she visited the specialist in Victoria in October. That specialist told her the leg needed to be replaced, she said. “She warned me that I wouldn’t have any notice, that it was just going to collapse.”

Dalziel said she was standing in her bedroom when her leg gave out.

“My leg collapsed, just absolutely collapsed. I had no warning, I was on the floor and I couldn’t move. I had such pain in my left arm, I thought my left arm was broken.”

Dalziel eventually managed to drag herself to her bed.

She said that her doctor, Alison Freeman, and the specialist from Victoria both sent information to the government about a new prosthesis in early December. Freeman also spoke to health department staff, Dalziel said.

But to date Dalziel said she hasn’t heard anything.

In a letter to NDP MLA Kate White dated April 10, Health Minister Pauline Frost acknowledged there has been a delay. “At the time the request was received, Health and Social Services was in the midst of hiring a medical equipment and supplies advisor,” the minister said.

That person reviews all requests to make sure they meet the government’s coverage criteria, she said.

In her letter Frost claims a decision regarding Dalziel’s prosthesis was made March 9 and that a letter was sent to Dalziel’s doctor. Frost’s response doesn’t say whether the prosthesis was approved or not.

Dalziel acknowledged that both her doctor and the specialist from Victoria have been away recently. Freeman is starting a new position in Haines Junction.

But Dalziel says she went to the doctor’s office as recently as this week and staff couldn’t find the letter the minister referenced.

In the legislative assembly this week White criticized the government for taking so long because of one unfilled position.

“They have been waiting for an answer since December 2017. One might consider a leg to be an ‘essential service.’ This kind of delay in making decisions for such essential health services is unacceptable.”

Frost said she was sorry to hear about concerns.

“I understand now that the timeliness of the response is one thing, but the timeliness of getting action is a whole other thing — and perhaps a structure that needs improvement,” she said.

Frost promised the department would be following through.

The minister didn’t say how many other clients had decisions delayed because of the vacancy.

“The person in that position would be making decisions with regard, not only to prosthetics, but wheelchairs, grab bars, walking aids and glucometers. These items are all things that allow a person to live independently and affect a person’s quality of life,” White said.

In a written statement to the News, a health spokesperson said the new advisor was not a vacant position but a new one.

“We have found that the medical equipment requested by Yukon seniors through the Extended Health Care Benefits program is becoming more complex. As a result of the increased complexity of the requests, the department needed to acquire the expertise of a clinician to review and assess requests for medical equipment,” spokesperson Clarissa Wall said.

“We have now created an additional casual, part-time, clinical position to review requests of this nature. The clinical expertise is now in place to process requests in a timely manner.

“Securing this expert did take time and some short delays were experienced, we accept that such delays are unacceptable under any circumstance and can assure Yukoners that protocols have been put in place to ensure oversight is in place.”

Wall added that the clinician only reviews “complex or speciality requests for medical equipment.”

Wall said she was “unable to comment as to whether there were individuals impacted during the time the casual position was being staffed.”

Meanwhile Dalziel is still using her old prosthesis but said she is fearful that it could collapse again at any time.

“I’ve had people who work for the health department say to me, ‘you’d be much better off dear in a wheelchair and you would get home care and all of that stuff.’ They just don’t get it, they just don’t get it.”

She said her mobility is important to her.

“I have three children here, I have 24 grandchildren, all the homes that my family have, every one has stairs that can’t be negotiated by a wheelchair. My life with my family, which is the most important thing in my life, would be finished.”

Dalziel said her family has offered to pay for her new prosthesis and skip over the need for government funding, but that’s not something she is willing to do.

“I have an obligation to people other than myself. There are things happening here that should not be happening and we should be getting the care and I must press on to ensure that that is going to happen.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Bonnie Dalziel stands in the door frame of her balcony on April 12. Dalziel has been waiting to find out if the territorial government would pay for a new prosthetic leg, but in the meantime, her old leg is failing her. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)