Canada province broadens medical travel support

Prince Edward Island’s Out-of-Province Medical Travel Support Programme now includes a petrol card for eligible Islanders travelling off-island to receive specialised healthcare services. The programme is temporary, and has been created to alleviate the pressures of fuel inflation.

As of 12 September, Islanders who receive travel support will get an ESSO card worth CA$100 as a temporary additional support to the existing bridge toll/ferry pass programme administered by Hope Air.

With increased inflation and the high cost of gasoline, the programme enhancements aim to support low-income Islanders who access out-of-province health services by removing the financial burden of travelling to other provinces.

Since 1988, the Government of PEI has partnered with Hope Air to provide free commercial flights for eligible residents to travel for medical services outside of the Maritimes.

In 2016, Hope Air and Health PEI expanded its partnership to include a bridge-toll and ferry-pass programme which, before the COVID-19 pandemic, averaged between 1,000 to 1,300 travel support passes annually.

To be eligible for the card, Islanders must:

  • Be travelling to a specialist appointment covered under the provincial health plan.
  • Have an Out-of-Province approval letter which is issued by Health PEI.
  • Have been approved for the Bridge/Ferry Pass from Hope Air.

Hope Air is a Canadian registered charity operating to provide free flights to low-income Canadians since 1986. The charity’s mission is to arrange free air transportation for Canadians who are in financial need and require non-emergency medical care outside of their home communities. Hope Air has provided over 115,000 free flights since its inception

Hope Air administers the travel supports on behalf of Health PEI as it relates to pre-approved out-of-province medical care for low-income households.

In another Canadian province, Yukoners seeking medical care outside the territory are being affected by the rising costs of hotels down south.

Although there have been recent increases to the per diem rate that the Yukon government pays medical travellers, some of those with upcoming procedures in Vancouver are feeling the pinch and think more could be done for them.

Some find that medical-specific lodging is fully booked, but hotels and other places all cost more than CA$200 per night. Yukon’s per diem for medical travel, CA$155 per day away, is seen as not enough to cover a hotel room in Vancouver, with meals and other expenses as extra. Medical travel is booked by the Yukon government so hotels could be managed in a similar way. Hotels can be difficult to afford and a health system review recommended setting up government-operated residences in Whitehorse and Vancouver to reduce the need for medical travellers to stay in hotels. Health and Social Services says it is working to meet this recommendation.