Busted: There are extremely limited resources available, resulting in very long wait lists. The longer people identifying as LGBTQ+ must wait for care, the higher their risk of suicide and other negative health outcomes.
Long version: Clinic 554 is integral to the health and well being of our LGBTQ2+ community, not only in NB but across the Maritimes. They are the only provider that allows for self-referral for hormone initiation for trans folk. The Clinic is accessible: patients can self-refer and the Clinic is committed to non-stigmatized, trauma informed care.
Access to healthcare is a significant problem faced by trans people in NB and Canada. The New Brunswick Women’s Council published data in 2018 that showed “34% of all participants identified health care as a top issue for improving the lives of gender minorities” and Clinic 554 was identified by name by numerous respondents as an essential resource. Succinctly put, one respondent stated “if it wasn’t for Clinic 554 I would have probably killed myself.” Up until January 2020, Clinic 554 was seeing one new trans-patient per DAY, a clear indicator of need.
Organizations such as Horizon Health, the anglophone regional health authority in NB, claim that the needs of LGBTQ2+ patients will be met even if Clinic 554 closes.
However, a list published by Horizon Health of Trans resources is full of barriers, for example the providers listed are only in the 3 large cities in NB and the only specialist listed for adult hormone therapy in the province requires a referral from a mental health professional. It is common knowledge that wait lists for mental health professionals in our province often exceed one year, and some require several steps of referral themselves. UBU Atlantic, a peer support group for trans-folk, has a list of three specialists in hormone therapy in NB, but the wait time can be as long as nine months. It has been well documented that the longer trans-folk have to wait for care, the higher their risk of suicide and other health problems becomes.
We are already seeing gaps in LGBTQ2+ widening as Clinic 554 faces the strain of financial instability and potential closure. Starting in January 2020, the Clinic made a hard decision to no longer accept new trans patients. They felt it was not safe to initiate a therapeutic relationship without feeling certain they could commit to the patient’s long-term transition needs when they are so uncertain about the viability of the Clinic. Community groups are starting to see the impact of losing this service. In mid-March UBU shared that in the past two weeks they had been approached by 20 people looking for help, and they expect those numbers to keep rising.