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Story by:

Camilla Cornell

Pride and Equity

Pride Toronto champions equity in healthcare through support of WCH's Transition-Related Surgery program

From its earliest days, Women’s College Hospital has been committed to breaking down barriers to achieve equity in healthcare for vulnerable and underserved communities. For transgender individuals, barriers to accessible and compassionate care have been particularly difficult to overcome.  

So when Women’s College Hospital created Canada’s first public hospital-based surgical program to provide safe and timely access to transition-related surgical care, it was “really ground-breaking in so many ways,” says Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto. 

“[WCH is] the first public institution in Canada to try to break down healthcare barriers for the trans community,” says Nuamah.  

Nuamah sees the Transition-Related Surgery (TRS) program at WCH as an affirmation of the values of equity in healthcare that have long been championed at WCH. The hospital was founded in 1883 to train female doctors when no other institution in Canada would. It has since focused on providing quality healthcare for women and men, as well as individuals from disadvantaged or marginalized communities.

In 2019, Pride Toronto will acknowledge WCH’s role in “moving the needle on LGBTQ+ issues in the city, the province and the country as a whole,” says Nuamah, by naming it Honoured Group of Pride Month 2019. Sixty per cent of the funds raised during Pride Month (June 2019) and the Pride Festival weekend (June 21 to 23) are earmarked for the TRS program. 

Being named Honoured Group means Women’s College Hospital will have a chance to raise awareness in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond about the healthcare required to support the needs of the trans community. “Through the example of Women’s College Hospital, hopefully other institutions will begin to understand the trans community and develop specialized services for this group,” says Nuamah.

Compassionate support for trans individuals in need

Runners at a charity run

Although access to care for trans individuals has been improving in recent years, not all transition-related surgeries are covered by OHIP and costs to patients can be considerable. 

To help offset the financial burden for patients undergoing surgery through Women’s College Hospital’s Transition-Related Surgery Program, the Pride & Remembrance Foundation has created the Pride & Remembrance Compassionate Fund to ensure patients in need can access support and receive care regardless of their socio-economic background. The organization has pledged $100,000 over three years in support of the fund—its first multi-year commitment made to a charity. 

“We realized that the funding gap between available OHIP support for trans surgeries and what the community needs is larger than what we would typically raise through the Run,” says Chris Brohman, president of the Pride & Remembrance Run. “A larger, ongoing gift made through the Pride & Remembrance Foundation allows us to offer more meaningful and stable support for the program.” 

Chris was inspired by the passion and compassion of the individuals at WCH who were involved in the initiative. “We want to show all stakeholders that the Run strongly supports the efforts of WCH in bringing about health equity for all people,” he says. “I hope our allies in and outside the LGBTQ+ community will also be inspired to support and grow this fund.”