BY TAMARA BELKOV
A Sudbury man sick and tired of getting the runaround, stopped taking his prescription medications March 21 to protest  what he says, is unfair treatment by the Sudbury office of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
ODSP is the provincial agency assigned to administer financial aid, medical benefits and assistance to the physically and mentally disabled.
"I'm falling apart off medication," says Raymond Boucher. "But I have to do something to protest the way they are treating me."
Living from one disability pension cheque to the next, Boucher says his troubles began when his April pension cheque arrived. He became concerned when he opened the envelope and noticed ODSP had unexpectedly reduced the amount he normally receives.
"They didn't tell me they'd taken something off. They said they added $96, but they didn't," he claims, referring to a letter sent to him by ODSP.
When Boucher contacted the Sudbury office of ODSP for help in straightening out the mess, he says he received the runaround.
Boucher told Northern Life that on March 21,  a senior manager at ODSP told him that he (Boucher), "was not worthy of help" and to stop calling the ODSP office. Boucher was advised to phone his MPP.
Referring to his situation as life-and-death, Boucher admits to having used "cocky" language over the phone.
"Ya, I got upset. I'm sacred... what can I say. If they do this to me now, treat me like this, how will it be when I'm stuck to a (dialysis) machine and can't fight for myself."
Boucher says he was told by ODSP that his physician changed his diagnosis and that he was no longer entitled to as large a supplement for food. He has since returned to ODSP to collect the forms to resubmit them for a nutritional supplement and confirm his doctor had not recommended a change to his diet.
ODSP staff cannot comment on an individual's case because of laws that govern an individual's right to privacy. According to staff at ODSP Sudbury, in general, people on disability pension rely on supplements that follow provincial guidelines and are calculated by staff. While prescription medications are paid for by ODSP, a pensioner may be reimbursed for the cost of hiring an aide to escort them to medical appointments and the cost of transportation and parking.
The province also provides financial assistance in the form of a supplement of up to $250 per month for additional nutritious foods as outlined in its guidelines.
The nutritional supplement is only provided if clients apply for it and their conditions qualify under ODSP guidelines. Clients must obtain  forms from ODSP, have their doctors complete them correctly, including the diagnosis, and submit them to ODSP.
The cost of buying the food is also pre-calculated. Staff at ODSP says the province estimates what food items cost. Some items that were once on the list of nutritious foods, such as bottled water, are no longer listed.
Boucher is asking his supplement be restored to its previous level of $147, a difference of $51 a month.
He says his doctor had already prescribed a diet for him, and he had been on it until his financial supplement was reduced at the beginning of April.
Boucher says maintaining his weight and watching what he eats is a critical part of his treatment.
Boucher's body is unable to control blood sugar levels and eliminate minerals (such as potassium) that are found in tap water. Boucher eats a diabetic diet and had been drinking three jugs of purified water a month for a total of $21.
Boucher was to start dialysis shortly, but now that he is no longer on his diet and medication, he may not be well enough to undergo the pre-dialysis surgical procedures scheduled for June.
He adds he is grateful to his medical team at the Sudbury Regional Hospital consisting of a physician, nutritionist, nurse practitioner and social worker for all they have done for him.
"My doctor wants to put me on dialysis and is trying to help keep me alive. What's the point if ODSP is going let me die of starvation?"
A spokesperson for the hospital is unable to comment on any patient's medical care.