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Expanded travel programs benefit patients needing cancer care

CANADA, September 27 - Patients around B.C., especially those living in rural and remote areas, will benefit from improved access to life-saving cancer care as the Province provides $20 million to expand medical travel support.

“When people who are diagnosed with cancer must travel to receive treatment, they deserve support every step of the way,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “That’s why government is partnering with the Canadian Cancer Society and Hope Air to expand their existing programs in B.C. that aim to support all facets of cancer patient travel. By providing grant funding to these two incredible charitable organizations, we are helping patients focus on receiving their cancer treatment at one of the six BC Cancer Centres or 41 community oncology network sites so they can get well as soon as possible.”

The Canadian Cancer Society and Hope Air have each received $10 million to expand their travel programs and support cancer patients. Both organizations will have an Oct. 3, 2023, launch date.

The Canadian Cancer Society will expand its three programs: the Travel Treatment Fund (TTF), which provides grants to patients for travel expenses; the Wheels of Hope program, which matches patients with volunteer drivers; and their four lodges, which offer accommodation and meals for patients and their caregivers near cancer centres in Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna and Prince George.

Applications under the TTF will be accepted retroactively to April 1, 2023. The organization is also adding new supports for patients with blood cancers who require bone marrow transplants in Vancouver.

“A cancer diagnosis places a significant financial and emotional strain on people with cancer and their families that is heightened for those needing to travel far distances to their treatment,” said Dr. Sandra Krueckl, executive vice president of mission, information and support services, Canadian Cancer Society. “Thanks to this generous funding from the B.C. Government, the Canadian Cancer Society is expanding access to our travel and accommodation support programs so more people in B.C., particularly in rural and remote communities, can access their life-saving cancer treatment.”

Hope Air will expand its services to increase support for patients and caregivers through increased ground transportation, overnight accommodations and meal vouchers for patients. They will also provide 2,500 flights for patients in B.C. travelling to receive cancer treatment by 2026.

“This medical travel funding grant supporting patients with cancer will be transformational for those living in rural and remote communities throughout British Columbia,” said Mark Rubinstein, chief hope officer, Hope Air. “Dealing with cancer is hard – travelling to care should not be. Hope Air programs will reduce the significant expenses associated with long-distance travel for those living far from hospitals and clinics and will help deliver much better health outcomes for cancer patients in need.”

The two organizations have co-developed a system to ensure people accessing their services receive the appropriate services and support, regardless of which organization they connect with. For instance, if a person requires a flight, they will automatically be connected to Hope Air, and if a person requires ground transportation and/or accommodation only, they will be connected directly to the Canadian Cancer Society. Patients with a household income of as much as $150,000 are eligible.

“By alleviating some of the challenges associated with long-distance travel and extended time away from home, we are demonstrating our commitment to putting people first and promoting health equity across B.C.,”  said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health. “These changes will allow cancer patients and their families to focus on self care, supporting loved ones and obtaining the rest they need, rather than dealing with logistical and financial hurdles.”

On Feb. 24, 2023, the Province launched its 10-Year Cancer Action Plan with an initial investment of $440 million, including $20 million to support people living in rural and remote communities who need to travel for cancer care. Government will continue expanding cancer care through the plan to better prevent, detect and treat cancers today, and to meet growing future demand. Through investments in research, technology and innovation, the Province is strengthening cancer care in B.C. and delivering more innovative, evidence-based care for people when and where they need it.

To increase capacity and keep up with demand into the future, the Province is adding more cancer centres throughout B.C., upgrading existing hospital space through renovation and expansion, including the addition of net new diagnostic imaging equipment and hiring new physicians and clinical support staff through B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy.

Quick Facts:

  • The Canadian Cancer Society is Canada's largest national cancer charity and the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. 
  • The society offers trusted cancer information and practical and emotional support programs nationwide, and advocates for healthy public policies to make healthy living easier for all.
  • Hope Air is a national charity that provides flights, accommodations, airport and ground transportation, and meal vouchers via private-sector partnerships for families and individuals who must travel for medical care.
  • Hope Air partners with multiple airlines and airports around the province.

Learn More:

To learn more about B.C.’s cancer plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HLTH0012-000229

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