More residents than ever needing health care outside their home communities are taking advantage of a provincial program that offers bus service for northern residents traveling to medical appointments in Prince George and back again.
Ridership has doubled since their first full year in 2007 to 12,000 residents using the medical connector in 2011, with bookings up 14 per cent since last year.
Some coaches return the same day so patients don’t need to find accommodation in Prince George, something that can become expensive .
Jessica Quinn of Northern Health emphasized that the service is open to all northern residents who need non-emergency medical care.
“Basically anyone can use it if they have a medical appointment outside their community,” Quinn said, “and though it’s a low cost service – it’s not just for low income people.”
Northern Health Connections coaches also give residents a chance to travel in a manner that considers their health challenges by giving them roomy, air conditioned seats. This is enhanced with movie and radio plug-ins to help pass the long drive.
Importantly, there is wheelchair accessibility for all coaches, including wheelchair accessible washrooms.
“A lot of people appreciate that,” Quinn noted, “so people (in wheelchairs) don’t have to hold it the whole way.”
Northern Health spokesperson added “We also have a route to Vancouver for bigger procedures … things like cardiac surgery and angioplasty,” Quinn said, and that patients taken to Vancouver by air ambulance can still get a ride home by way of the buses.
Quinn said that presently people can book a spot by calling 1-888-647-4997 adding that by March their website will likely have online booking.
The service which has funding in place until 2015 also transports medical freight and lab work samples regularly.
For more on bus routes and amenities go to Northern Health’s website at www.northernhealth.ca