(K'JIPUKTUK) HALIFAX – On Thursday, long-time Halifax Media Co-op contributor Kendall Worth appealed a decision by Nova Scotia Supreme Court upholding the Department of Community Services and Assistance Appeal Board decision that he no longer should be granted his special needs diet.
Justice James L. Chipman upheld the decision.
Worth had been receiving a monthly allowance of $66 for a high-calorie, high-protein diet prescribed to him by his doctors since 2011. This is in addition to the monthly income assistance he receives through the Employment Services and Income Assistance act.
Worth lives with compulsive control disorder, a learning disorder, and a cardiovascular medical condition. His diet is prescribed to him because of his weight loss associated with compulsive behaviour. Worth told the assistance appeal board that “since the high protein portion of his special diet was taken away his symptoms have gotten harder to control.”
The diet was originally prescribed by Dr. Muthu, a psychiatrist in 2011, and again in 2012. The same diet was prescribed by another doctor, Dr. Grada in July 2013, and finally by Dr. Wilson in October 2013 -- although Wilson said the diet was to reduce “cardiac risk factors such as obesity” -- different from the previous prescriptions and so requiring clarification.
The Department of Community Services denied him funding for his special diet in February 2013. Worth appealed this decision April 2013.
In a second appeal in March 2014, a caseworker on behalf of the department told the board that Doctor Wilson, which had made the most recent prescription for Worth, “is of the opinion that after reviewing this [case], that the client is not in need of this diet,” in a conversation dated Dec. 11, 2013.
The hearing Thursday was meant to determine whether the court’s decision was “reasonable” given the circumstances: Tanya Jones, counsel from Nova Scotia Legal Aid representing Worth, argued that it was not reasonable for this final conversation to trump prescriptions from three doctors.
Zoe Roberts countered that it was reasonable because Wilson’s prescription was unclear and had to be verified, and that he ultimately decided that Worth was no longer in need of the diet.
At least one doctor previous to Wilson was fed up with repeated calls from case workers and said they could no longer help Kendall.
North End Community Health Centre workers have signed a letter asking that current ESIA policy be reformed because of such instances of a “vague” medical assessment form and the “discrepancy between workers and offices regarding detail requested and guidelines imposed relating to eligibility for special needs.”
The letter states that it is unclear why medical reports are sometimes rejected and that proper communication from case workers is lacking.
Worth has approached the head of FEED Nova Scotia and various food banks to see if they could help him in purchasing his special diet products, but to no avail.
An earlier version of this story said Tanya Jones works for Dal Legal Aid, when in fact she is with Nova Scotia Legal Aid. The Media Co-op regrets the error.