Government says $75 per day subsidy is an upgrade over previous medical travel conditions

The Yukon government’s director of insured health says her department follows existing legislation when it makes decisions about medical travel for Yukoners.

Maura Forrest

News Reporter

The Yukon government’s director of insured health says her department follows existing legislation when it makes decisions about medical travel for Yukoners.

Shauna Demers spoke with the News following a recent story in which several Yukon residents voiced concerns about the fairness of the medical travel program.

One of the major complaints about the program is that the $75-per-day subsidy to help patients pay for food and accommodations when they travel to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton for medical appointments doesn’t come close to covering their expenses.

But Demers said the subsidy was upgraded from $30 per day in 2006. Previously, the $30 subsidy was only available on the fourth and subsequent days of medical travel. Now, Yukoners are entitled to $75 per day as of the second day of travel.

“The $75 per day is legislated, so there’s no authority to provide any more in the legislation,” she said.

Others have expressed concern about a lack of information available to patients to help them navigate visits to Vancouver or other cities. The government does publish a booklet with information about planning medical trips, called “Guide for the Travelling Yukon Patient,” but until this week, it was not available online. As of Thursday, the booklet can be found at www.hss.gov.yk.ca/medicaltravel.php.

Tagish resident Maureen Dastous said she doesn’t believe the government does enough to let patients know what their options are when they travel. She has been travelling for medical reasons for the last 10 years, and she now stays at the Jean C. Barber Cancer Lodge in Vancouver, which she said costs $55 per day, including three meals. But she said it took her about five years to find out about the lodge, and she only heard about it through word of mouth.

“Nobody knows about it,” she said. “I tell everybody I know and it really makes the difference.”

The lodge is mentioned in the government’s medical travel booklet. But Demers said Yukon government employees cannot directly advise patients about where to stay, because the health department doesn’t have an arrangement with any hotels in Vancouver or elsewhere.

Escorts for medical travel are another point of contention for some Yukoners. Last week, Yukon Medical Association president Alison Freeman said she believes too many people request funding for family members to accompany them.

Demers said all requests for escorts have to come from clinical physicians. The government does have some “discretionary power” to decide whether the escort is medically necessary, but Demers said that most of the time, the department will fund an escort if a doctor has requested one. She said escorts are deemed medically necessary if the patient is frail, disabled, elderly or if there’s a language barrier.

But it’s not only those travelling outside the territory who are upset about the medical travel program.

Dawson City resident Hector Renaud says it’s unfair that Yukoners living in the communities have to spend so much out of pocket for medical appointments in the city, while Whitehorse residents don’t have to rack up expensive hotel bills just to see a doctor.

He’s got an appointment with an anesthesiologist in Whitehorse booked for January that’s estimated to take about six minutes.

“For that six-minute meeting, I’m going to be gone three days from Dawson,” he said, explaining that he’ll have to drive down one day, and by the time he’s had his appointment the next day, there won’t be enough daylight left for him to drive back until the following morning.

Renaud is now retired, but he said many workers would find it difficult to lose that many days on the job.

Community members travelling to Whitehorse also get the $75-per-day subsidy if they’re not being admitted to the hospital. Their flights will be covered if they fly to Whitehorse. If they drive, they’re entitled to 30 cents per kilometre.

Renaud believes the subsidy isn’t high enough. He compares it unfavourably to the roughly $100 a day he received for food and other expenses — not including hotels — when he was a government employee travelling to Whitehorse for work.

But he says another issue is that people have to cover all their medical travel expenses up front, and they only receive the subsidy after the fact.

Because he has to travel frequently to Whitehorse, he estimates he’ll be paying out of pocket for three trips before the first one is reimbursed. He believes that’s more than some people can afford.

“I understand (the government) can’t pay for everything,” he said. “But I think it’s really an issue where I firmly believe that there are people that get appointments that don’t get there.”

Renaud said increased use of videoconferencing might reduce the number of trips community residents have to make to Whitehorse.

“To me, it’s an issue that hopefully (premier-designate) Sandy (Silver) and his crew can do something about.”

Some Canadian provinces also offer medical travel assistance, but the programs are not designed to cover all costs. In Ontario, northern residents who live far from medical centres are eligible for 41 cents per kilometre for travel and an accommodation allowance of $100 for the entire trip.

In Manitoba, residents who have to travel outside the province for medical reasons can have their flight costs reimbursed, though the process can take up to six months. Hotels and meals are not covered.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 5, 2021.… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. They formally announced that as of Nov. 20, anyone entering the territory (including Yukoners returning home) would be required to self-isolate with the exception of critical service workers, those exercising treaty rights and those living in B.C. border towns
Vaccinated people won’t have to self-isolate in the Yukon after May 25

Restaurants and bars will also be able to return to full capacity at the end of the month.

An RV pulls into Wolf Creek Campground to enjoy the first weekend of camping season on April 30, 2021. John Tonin/Yukon News
Opening weekend of Yukon campgrounds a ‘definite success’

The territorial campgrounds opened on April 30. Wolf Creek was the busiest park seeing 95 per cent of sites filled.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: rent caps and vaccines

To Sandy Silver and Kate White Once again Kate White and her… Continue reading

Most Read