Access to Medical Supplies


SCIO has been working with the Government of Ontario to gain commitments on essential needs that prevent severe complications for people with an SCI and other disabilities. Our government needs to examine the public coverage programs that fund catheters and related supplies and fix systemic and cost deficiencies.

The pandemic proved how fractured our health care system is. The people of Ontario should not suffer needlessly. 


people use intermittent catheters every day in Ontario


average number of catheters needed per day


state that challenges accessing the appropriate number of catheters impact their independence
intermittent catheters are single-use medical devices in Canada


support moving to a model where approved distributors bill the government directly for product shipped to users


of people who use uncoated catheters experience 4+ urinary tract infections per year


say catheters are a huge financial burden due to a lack of public coverage


time difference to insert an uncoated catheter versus a coated catheter


agree that all users of catheters must have access to a specialty nurse for teaching and clinical support
up to $2,500
monthly out of pocket cost in bladder management supplies

Policy Report

Over the last year, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO) has worked with over 100 people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and a group of committed stakeholders to understand current challenges and gather feedback about how the Ontario government could modernize public coverage for intermittent catheters and other related supplies.

The SCIO Policy Report: A Path to Modernize Public Coverage in Ontario for Intermittent Catheters and Related Supplies is the output from these broad stakeholder consultations.

The purpose of the Policy Report is not only to inform and provide expertise to policymakers on the importance of bladder supplies and the consequences when the appropriate supplies are not prescribed or affordable. The report also provides 9 recommendations for how to improve procurement, get better value and provide people with what they need; simply and efficiently.

Report highlights

The Policy Report consists of six important chapters, which you can view individually below.

Nine recommendations for the next Government of Ontario

These steps can modernize the funding programs for individuals needing to use intermittent catheters and related supplies. They will improve procurement and provide people with what they need; simply and efficiently.

Reducing red tape and finding system efficiencies

  • 1
    Conduct an examination of the overlapping government programs across the different departments to assess hidden costs and opportunities to reduce red tape.
  • 2
    Prioritize the implementation of a new modern funding program for intermittent catheters that delivers system and financial efficiencies for better patient care.
  • 3
    Leverage best practices from other jurisdictions, e.g., Saskatchewan style program via approved distributors.
Optimizing procurement to achieve greater value
  • 4
    Procure for a comprehensive medical supply coverage program that both allows for consistency of product choice through the continuity of care and prevents patients from the need to reuse single-use catheters.
  • 5
    Support the Health Canada, nursing and physician position that reusing single-use intermittent catheters is not permitted.
Providing patient-centred care
  • 6
    Ensure access to specialty nurses with knowledge, skills and judgment in bladder health and continence.
  • 7
    Improve the hospital to community transition of Indigenous Ontarians who have suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) or other health conditions that cause bladder dysfunction.
  • 8
    Increase access to specialist nurses to improve assessment and timely access to products and supplies by filling out and submitting forms correctly.
  • 9
    Determine how to better support Ontarians who work seasonally and who may have limited access to current funding information.

Community Narratives

Two young men playing wheelchair basketball.

Martin, 30, is paralyzed from the neck down. His catheterization is performed twice per day by a PSW – the cost of bladder care supplies are a great source of stress. Supplies include external catheters, catheters for intermittent catheterization, iodine solution and sterile sponges, and gloves.

Sarah: A Community Narrative

Sarah, 25 has an active lifestyle, working, playing sports and travelling the world. She has discovered the various types of catheters and has found that she prefers different ones depending on the circumstances. She irrigates her bladder every morning, requiring a syringe tipped catheter.

Two young men playing wheelchair basketball.

John, 62, receives dialysis three times a week to stay alive. John had an SCI 25 years ago that resulted in paraplegia. A complication of the injury was a neurogenic bladder, requiring him to catheterize. Over the years, John has continued to work.

Teenager listening to music on her smartphone.

Nicole, 14, is a teenager born with spina bifida. She has used various types of catheters, and learned to self-catheterize as a child. While catheterization is a fundamental part of her life, it impacts activities such as school and socializing. As a child, Nicole missed important milestones like birthday parties and sleepovers due to not having the right catheter.

You have the power to help change Ontario’s public coverage of medical supplies.
I believe comprehensive catheter coverage for Ontarians is an issue of equity and respect. Based upon best evidence, we should not expect patients to reuse single-use medical products, like intermittent catheters…Our catheter coverage lags behind the rest of the industrialized world, and our patients deserve better.
– Dr. Dean Elterman
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