Charity eases access to medical care by providing free flights

People living in Canada’s biggest cities often take access to hospitals for granted.

But these sprawling healthcare hubs full of tests, treatments and all manner of medical specialists are not only used by people in the cities where they are located. Frequently, people who live in small or remote communities need to access the same hospitals, but must travel for hours by car or by bus, and sometimes struggle financially just to make the journey.  Some will forego vital medical care altogether because distance or cost makes travel impossible.

Hope Air aims to remove these obstacles. It is the only Canadian charity that provides free flights to patients of all ages, and all medical needs who must travel far from home to access medical care.

One of the patients Hope Air helped is Rob from Timmins, Ontario, who flew with Hope Air when he was undergoing treatment for an advanced form of prostate cancer. As a father of five, and an active member of his community, all the time it took to travel for care took a toll on him. Receiving free flights for the treatments he had every two weeks eased his financial burden and allowed him to spend more time at home with his family. “Flying me back and forth meant a lot of what I worried about went by the wayside.” Rob says. “I could now focus on my health and recovery.” Currently in remission, Rob uses Hope Air less and less, but he wants to make sure that others can take advantage of their services. “Many don’t know this is available. I want to help spread the word about this great organization.”

Word of mouth from people like Rob and their family or friends is how 28% of patients find out about Hope Air. But health care workers are Hope Air’s key referrers, referring 46% of patients.”I work at a hospital and have helped patients connect with Hope Air to help make arrangements for themselves or a loved one,” says one referrer, “they feel such relief when they know they can attend a medical appointment safely, and that there will not be any financial burden.” Referrals from health care professionals are so valuable because the doctors, nurses and social workers who care for patients identify access issues early on and direct patients most in need to Hope Air before these obstacles cause cancelled appointments or undue stress.

Applications for patient flights can be made on hopeair.ca, by filling out the online travel request form or by calling 1-877-346-HOPE (4673). Applicants must have a confirmed medical appointment that is covered by their province’s health plan and must demonstrate financial need. Patients can fill out the application on their own or have a support worker or family member fill it out on their behalf. Hope Air asks that applications be made two weeks in advance if possible, but quicker turnaround can be accommodated if necessary.

While Canadian airlines do generously donate flights to Hope Air, most flights are purchased with donor dollars. Corporate partners like Medtronic, CAA Club Group and WestJet Cares for Kids as well as gifts from foundations and individual donors, connect thousands of patients to medical care every year.

Accessing medical care should not be a burden. It’s thanks to health care workers advocating and submitting applications on behalf of their patients that Hope Air can reach as many people as they do. If you have a patient that could benefit from this service, visit hopeair.ca.