Monday, July 28, 2003
By Anthony Cooper
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The family of an Annapolis Valley woman who has multiple sclerosis is pressing the government to honour a municipal funding agreement she signed before the province took over responsibility for social services.
Bill Romans, Audrey Walsh's brother, says she had entered into an agreement with the West Hants municipality for long-term, ongoing financial support in the form of municipal social assistance.
Ms. Walsh, 52, suffers from MS and has no use of her arms and legs.
The woman, who lives in Hants Border near Hantsport, used to get about $1,400 in financial aid per month, but her family says the funding was cut off in September 1998 when the province took over social services.
Mr. Romans sent an invoice to the Community Services Department in May claiming more than $72,000 in support payments is owed to his sister.
Mr. Romans said his sister still receives about 15 minutes of in-home nursing care per day but the family needs the funding for expenses, food, lodging, clothes and health care.
"To me it's so simple to solve," Ms. Walsh's mother, Margaret Romans, said in a recent interview. "I mean, we have an agreement and they just won't honour it."
Community Services Minister David Morse said Sunday that when the province assumed responsibility for social services from municipalities, Ms. Walsh's case "was in the mix, and it just did not conform with an existing program. In order to support someone, there has to be a program."
The family has tried to appeal the funding loss but was told the case "had been transferred from the Department of Community Services to the Department of Health," Mrs. Romans said, "and there is no appeals process in the Health Department."
Mr. Romans obtained a copy of the relevant order-in-council from Health Minister Jane Purves recently that shows the transfer, retroactive to 1993, occurred in April 2000.
Ms. Walsh's funding disappeared during the final year of Liberal government in 1998 and was not restored in the subsequent four years of Tory rule.
Before the 1999 election, "David Morse said he was going to do wonders for us," Mrs. Romans said. "And for four years he has done nothing but work against us."
But Mr. Morse, who won the Kings South seat in the '99 vote, said Sunday he "certainly promised to do my best to try and assist them, and that has been done."
Mr. Morse could not go into detail on the case but said, "There is no program in place to provide the additional supports that (Audrey's) brother wants the Department of Health to (provide). She is getting everything that is available under existing programs for her."
Mr. Romans is Ms. Walsh's primary caregiver. He has written to the premier, Ms. Purves and "every MLA in Nova Scotia," Mrs. Romans said.
Two weeks ago Ms. Walsh and a group of her friends and family protested outside a Kentville radio station where John Hamm was giving an interview along the campaign trail. They waited in the rain and confronted the premier, blocking his minivan.
Mr. Hamm agreed to read a package of correspondence outlining the funding
struggle, but Mrs. Romans said they have yet to get a response.
Copyright © 2003, The Halifax Herald Limited