In the final Question Period of the legislative session NDP MPP for Sudbury, Jamie West, called on the Ford Government to remove the cost-prohibitive barriers blocking Northern Ontarians from accessing proper care through the Northern Health Travel Grant. The current system places an undue burden on individuals who must travel long distances to receive specialized health care, forcing them to uproot their lives, leave work and their families, and travel for hours to access essential medical care.
The Northern Health Travel Grant, designed to assist residents in accessing necessary medical services, falls short of addressing the financial challenges faced by patients from Northern Ontario. One of the key issues is the requirement for individuals to pay for accommodation and travel up front and then wait for reimbursement, worsening an already stressful situation.
“We are in the midst of an affordability crisis,” said West. “These individuals have faced the challenges of travelling long distances for specialized care, often at significant personal and financial costs. People cannot afford to take 2-3 days off work, uproot their lives, and wait to be reimbursed.”
Residents across Northern Ontario have contacted MPP West, sharing their stories and shedding light on the broken travel grant system. Denise and Stephan, seniors living on fixed incomes, are among the many affected individuals who must travel to Toronto to visit neurologists. Despite their financial constraints, they have no choice but to make the journey. To deepen their troubles, the Northern Health Travel Grant only provides $100 per night for a hotel, while the actual “discounted” hospital-hotel rate is $250.00/night. Further to this, the mileage rate is a mere 41 cents a kilometre, but they only get compensated after the first 100 km.
“The Premier must commit to increasing mileage and accommodation compensation so seniors like Stephan do not have to bear out-of-pocket expenses to access essential care. Northern Ontarians should not have to sacrifice their financial well-being or endure undue stress when seeking essential medical care.”