Patient Travel Costs a ‘Huge Public Health Issue’
2019-09-09 from thetyee.ca
Rural patients pay double rent, sleep in tents, to access medical care in BC, researchers say.
When Michael Rawluk was diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis, a type of blood cancer, in July 2018, he wasn’t worried about the cost of his treatment. He lives in Canada, where medical care is covered by our taxes.
Even his chemotherapy drugs are subsidized by British Columbia’s provincial Fair PharmaCare program.
But Rawluk and his wife, Kim Herdman, live in Williams Lake, and the treatment Rawluk needs is 550 kilometres away at Vancouver General Hospital.
While he only spent a couple of weeks in the hospital during treatment this June, Rawluk has to stay within a 30-minute drive of VGH for at least 100 days, keeping the couple in town until at least October.
Across Canada, patients outside major centres are making difficult financial choices to access health care, including selling their houses and liquidating all assets. Others choose to forgo treatment and risk death to avoid financial ruin.
It’s not just cancer patients. Last month, an expectant mother travelling from her home in Bella Coola, B.C., to the closest maternity ward 470 kilometres away in Williams Lake was forced to sleep in a tent for two weeks, accompanied by her toddler and sister, because they couldn’t afford a motel.
She’s one of more than a thousand moms in B.C. who travel over 100 kilometres each year to deliver their babies, said Jude Kornelsen, co-director of the Centre for Rural Health Research at the University of British Columbia.
But there is no provincial or national data on patients’ medical travel costs, Kornelsen added, because that research hasn’t been done.
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