by Susan Rosenthal
Dr. Roland Wong is under threat of losing his license to practice medicine. He didn’t harm anyone. He helped people on social assistance get extra money for food.
The average Ontario welfare recipient gets $500 per month. The special dietary allowance program provided extra benefits of up to $250 per month to enable those with medical conditions to purchase more healthful food. An estimated 20 percent of people on social assistance rely on these extra benefits.
Wong, who specializes in occupation and community medicine, admits to completing about 15,000 special dietary allowance forms in one year. He not only signed forms for his own patients, he also signed them for people attending mass clinics arranged by anti-poverty activists.
Between 2001/02 and 2009/10, the cost of funding the special dietary allowance program rose from $6 million to $220 million. Claiming that the program was being “abused,” the province scrapped it and directed the police to investigate 2,300 recipients of this benefit.
Conservative city councilor Robert Ford, who is running for mayor of Toronto in October, filed a complaint against Wong with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). The College must now investigate whether Wong engaged in conduct that “would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional.”
Ford insists, “A doctor is there to be a doctor, not to advocate for the poor…You can’t have people in the medical field doing that.”
Wong views the complaint against him as politically-motivated harassment and refuses to be intimidated. At an April 6 public meeting and a July rally, he protested government policies that promote homelessness, starvation, sickness and premature death in the richest province in Canada.
“Income level is the best predictor of health,” he said. “We have to invest in human resources – they are not to be wasted.”
Wong points out that cuts to social assistance in the mid-1990s saved the province $2 billion dollars, while the special dietary allowance restores only 10 percent of what was lost.
With regard to the charges against him, he stated, “I don’t know what will happen. But whatever happens to me, I will be happy because I’ve done something useful.”
Roland Wong embodies the spirit in which all physicians should practice medicine.
Watch the 15 minute video of Wong’s April 6 presentation.
Send messages of support to Dr. Roland Wong
UPDATE, December 4, 2011