Cancer patient driven to welfare by inadequate coverage for treatment
Published Saturday, December 21, 2019 2:22PM EST Last Updated Saturday, December 21, 2019 7:46PM EST
MONTREAL -- Cancer treatment will tax the body, mind and soul of the strongest patients, but the disease will also the pocketbook for those without comprehensive health insurance.
Nathaly Downey was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and left her job to undergo a year-long series of chemotherapy treatments and surgery.
Her employment insurance lasted just 15 weeks, the maximum allowable for major illnesses.
By summer she was out of funds and began cashing in her RRSPs, while friends and family pitched in to help her buy groceries.
"May 25th. That was my last cheque," she said.
She is now on welfare and outraged that if she'd lost her job rather than getting sick, she would have received a full year of benefits.
"I've worked all my life, paid all my taxes, and have a house," she said.
Marie-Helene Dube became an advocate for patients' rights after thyroid cancer a decade ago caused her to face similar tough choices.
Dube points out that a mother whose child is in the hospital can take 35 weeks off, but, if she is sick, she gets just 15 weeks of coverage.
Dube has gathered nearly 700,000 signatures over the past decade to change the rules.
The Trudeau government promised to increase the coverage to 26 weeks during the last campaign.
"It's not enough," she said. "Cancer treatment takes a minimum of one year."
Those wanting more information on Dube's campaign can check out the website 15 Semaines.
For Downey, she hopes to return to work soon.
"We are people that are willing to go back to work as soon as possible," she said. "I'm not the kind of girl who will stay home."