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Chiropractic Care "Delisted" in Ontario

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Section: Health Geography: Ontario ottawa

January 14, 2005

Chiropractic Care "Delisted" in Ontario

by Tanya Rakhmilevich

Beginning on December 1st, 2004, chiropractic care will be taken off of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, leaving patients with substantial bills to pay.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), chiropractic care was established in 1895, in a time when patients were looking for an alternative to potentially harmful drugs. The main purpose of chiropractic is to improve overall health by adjusting the spine and using other natural methods such as specialized diets and stretching techniques to stimulate the body's natural healing power by way of the nervous system. This practice has become widely used since then, with about 5000 chiropractors currently licensed in Canada. Over 4000 chiropractic students in Canada graduate every year, and this number continues to increase annually.

To understand more about the possible effects of these recent developments, I spoke to Dr. Daniel Komesch, a chiropractor who practices in Ottawa and serves as the chiropractor for the University of Ottawa's football team.

Tanya Rakhmilevich: What are some of the most important benefits of chiropractic care?

Daniel Komesch: The most important benefit of chiropractic care is that it keeps people healthy and maintains long-term health. Chiropractic care deals with the muscular and skeletal systems, concentrating on the lower back area, lumbar cervical area and the neck. The neuromuscular system is also a main focus of ours, dealing with headaches, leg pain, hip pain, and nerve involvement with the ribs. Difficulties with nerves in the rib area can cause trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, and chest pain. The main factor is that it is a beneficial service to people of all ages, especially the elderly.

Can you sum up the basic principles of chiropractic care and how they work?

There are certain nerve endings that extend from the spine to the arms, legs, hands, feet, and all over the body. A body part, such as the arm, is mapped out into sections, with corresponding vertebrae relating to each section. For example, if a person has numbness in their fingers, it may be because of a problem with a nerve in their neck vertebrae. The specific vertebra of the neck that corresponds to the fingers is then adjusted to alleviate the numbness.

Is chiropractic care ever necessary in an emergency situation?

Absolutely. For example, I once had a patient with extreme pain in his leg. The patient could hardly stand, was unable to walk, couldn't sleep, and was in excruciating pain. This turned out to be a problem in the lower back area. In this case, chiropractic proved itself as a great healing force.

How will chiropractic care being removed from OHIP affect you and your practice?

My biggest concern with the OHIP 'delisting' is the chiropractic patients, because they are the ones who are going to suffer. People, especially the elderly and people on welfare, have had comfort from chiropractic, and with the 'delisting', they will no longer have that comfort. The number of people every year who see family doctors is estimated to increase from 558,000 to 1.2 million when the 'delisting' goes into effect on December 1st. The number of people going to emergency rooms will increase from 382,000 to 764,000. This will result in delayed access to necessary care for many people, and will be a lot for the hospitals to handle.

What is your personal reaction to the OHIP's decision?

My reaction is that this is a situation where the government must understand that chiropractic is a service that still awards a 1.6% decrease in total annual health costs at the plan level. In Ontario alone, it saves the government $480M [annually]. Right now, $100M is paid out [yearly] to chiropractic services by OHIP. Keeping chiropractic on the plan may not only prove to be beneficial to the patients, but reduce overall health care costs as well.

Have you noticed any trends in the past few years that seem to lead up to this decision?

In the past few years, chiropractic has become very prominent, and many people have turned to it as an alternative [to traditional medicine]. The Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) currently has 730 students and is growing.

If things have been going so well for chiropractic, then why do you think the government has decided to delist chiropractic services?
My impression is that the government decided that $100M per year was too much to be paying out for chiropractic, and it wanted more money to put into other services. Unfortunately, not enough research has been performed to understand the health service given by chiropractors, and the amount of money that the government has actually saved because of our work.

Is the Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA) doing anything to protest this decision?

There have been large protests in Toronto and Ottawa, as well as a petition that has over 100,000 signatures. About 1000 people showed up at the rally in Toronto last summer, and about 700 people attended the rally in Ottawa. Since over 1.2 million patients in Ontario rely on chiropractic care, this 'delisting' will have a huge impact on a great number of people.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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