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‘We have no choice’: Labrador woman forced to auction Christmas gifts to pay travel expenses for daughter's dental work

Sharon McLean, right, had to hold an auction over Facebook to raise money for dental travel expenses for her seven-year-old daughter Raven (left). McLean was rejected by the Medical Assistance Travel Program because the dental procedures are not publicly insured by the province, and only procedures covered by MCP or the Newfoundland and Labrador Hospital Insurance Plan qualify for travel assistance.
Sharon McLean, right, had to hold an auction over Facebook to raise money for dental travel expenses for her seven-year-old daughter Raven (left). McLean was rejected by the Medical Assistance Travel Program because the dental procedures are not publicly insured by the province, and only procedures covered by MCP or the Newfoundland and Labrador Hospital Insurance Plan qualify for travel assistance. - Contributed
HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. —

Sharon McLean was left scrambling to fundraise after her request for medical travel assistance from the provincial MTAP program was denied.

Given the fact that her seven-year-old daughter, Raven, needed to travel from their home in North West River in Labrador to St. John's for pediatric dental work, McLean was sure there would be no problem being approved.

“I was kind of shocked and mad because ...I thought this must be covered because they’re specialists,” said McLean.

“My God, do they not understand this infection that she has? If it's not treated, it could be really bad.”

Sick child

Raven's medical issues began Jan. 22, when she woke up with a swollen cheek. McLean assumed that her daughter had a gum boil, a problem she had also had as a child.

McLean took her daughter to a clinic in North West River and Raven was prescribed antibiotics. But it wasn't long before McLean realized the problem was getting worse.

“I went to Goose Bay to get her prescription, went to mother's to pick her up and bring her home, and she was even more swollen.”

McLean took Raven to the emergency room, where a doctor told her to take Raven to a dentist as soon as possible. By then, the swelling had extended around Raven's eye.

The next morning, a dentist in Happy Valley-Goose Bay informed McLean that her daughter would need to see a pediatric dentist.

“He said she needs to get to St. John's ASAP because she needs some caps and he said they don't do that here.”

The dentist gave McLean a referral for the Lol Dental clinic in St. John's, and a dental assistant also informed McLean about the MTAP program.

Raven would eventually get two fillings, have two teeth pulled, and one tooth capped.

Rejected application

According to McLean, her application was rejected very quickly, forcing her to do her own fundraising for Raven's dental trip. In a letter, it was explained that funding for Raven's trip was denied because the procedures are not publicly insured by the province, and only procedures covered by MCP or the Newfoundland and Labrador Hospital Insurance Plan qualify for travel assistance.

“It's beyond me why the government, they don't cover this type of procedure. It's a specialized field. It's not here; it's not available," McLean said.

“We have no choice (but to travel).”

McLean held an auction over Facebook to raise money. She found as many items to sell as she could in own house, and folks from North West River and beyond also chipped in. In total, McLean auctioned 200 items and raise $2,500, which was just enough to cover airfare and the cost of the sedatives that would be used during the dental procedures.

“I went through my house - Christmas gifts, sentimental items, anything I could find that I knew people would bid on went in the auction,” said McLean.

“My sister sent me stuff from Alaska, I had stuff come from Ottawa, St. John's...People were just real generous.”

Access in Labrador

A representative from LOL Dental explained that their dentist does travel periodically to Labrador. In Labrador City, they see patients one week a month. In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, however, it's just one day a month. LOL Dental currently doesn't have access to an operating room in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, so the dentist can't do more extensive dental work on site.

According to the LOL representative, Labrador Grenfell Health (LGH) will be giving them OR time for one week starting in late April.

Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper said in a statement he is aware of the lack of pediatric dental services in his region and is currently working with LGH to try and fix the issue.

gxrth@stu.ca

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