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'Totally wrong': Winnipeg man says landlord denied life-changing medical equipment

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A Winnipeg man is raising a red flag after his landlord said no to health-care equipment that could change his life – a problem he believes is a human rights issue.

Alan MacKay, 77, lives with Type 2 diabetes and kidney function loss. It's a condition that requires him to go to the hospital for dialysis four times a week.

"It's my life. If I don't have this dialysis machine hooked up to me, I'm dead," he said.

MacKay said the whole process of travelling to the hospital for dialysis takes about eight hours, but he could get a huge portion of his life back with an at-home dialysis machine in his apartment.

The cost would be covered by Shared Health through the Manitoba Renal Program. The program's website notes it would return the rental unit to its original state, excluding paint, if the patient moves or ends the dialysis treatment.

"This is all being denied to me because the answer from the property manager is no," MacKay said, adding he was told he isn't able to get the at-home machine because his landlord denied the request.

The building's property manager Ryan Cerezo told CTV News in an email that he was informed the machine would require modifications to the cabinets, plumbing and electrical.

"Some changes would be left permanent," he said in an email. "I was left with a yes or no option to continue with the installation."

Cerezo said he chose not to proceed.

Shared Health tells CTV News landlords do need to sign off on any home dialysis equipment.

"If someone lives in a rental property, they must obtain legal written consent from the property owner for any renovations that would be required to safely and properly house the equipment," a spokesperson for Shared Health told CTV News.

"No landlord has a right to deny you your health care. Absolutely not," said MacKay.

It's a problem Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of a national seniors advocacy organization CanAge, said she has seen across the country.

"This is where we see ableism, discrimination against people with disabilities, and ageism collide," she told CTV News.

She said the system right now creates two-tiered health care.

"If this particular gentleman owned his own home or had control over his own housing, he would be the one to make these decisions, and he would then be able to age in place at home with the care such as dialysis that he needs," she said.

"Because he doesn't own his own home and he's having to work with a landlord, he's in a much more vulnerable situation. And it means that he's not getting the benefits as somebody who owns their own home would have."

Shared Health told CTV News the right to home dialysis is protected under the Manitoba Human Rights Code as a reasonable accommodation.

"Landlords are encouraged to understand what rights there are to accommodate under the Code," it said in a statement. "Anyone who feels their rights are being compromised under the code should contact the Manitoba Human Rights Commission."

That's exactly what MacKay has done. He said he's filed a complaint with the commission, but was told it could be two years before his complaint is heard.

While it can't comment on specific cases, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission told CTV News the Human Rights Code requires employers, service and housing providers to uphold the right to equality and non-discrimination in Manitoba. This includes the right of tenants to reasonably accommodate to the point of undue hardship.

Shared Health said tenants can also reach out to the Residential Tenancies Branch, which can tell landlords what their obligations are in cases like this.

With no immediate course of action, MacKay said his only option is to continue travelling to the hospital for care he said he should be allowed to access in his own home.

"If it's happening to me, it could happen to anybody else," he said. "And that's wrong. Totally wrong." 

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