Canadians face many barriers in getting specialized medical treatment. From the financial burden to coordinating specialists, to dealing with the emotional fall out of being diagnosed with a critical illness, these obstacles can seem overwhelming.
This website is created to help Canadians get the supports they need when faced with a critical illness. It comes from a deep seated Canadian value, that treatment and support should be provided according to a patient’s medical needs not where they live or their financial situation. The intention is to create a community where patients can quickly find resources and information, access emotional support, and assist each other by passing on tips and tricks.
In Canada, we subscribe to a medical system that we think provides universal health care and that even if you have to pay for some things, these costs will be manageable, because we have universal access to healthcare in Canada – right?
This is simply no longer true, and the situation is getting worse.
Canadians do not like to talk about money, especially their own financial situation. This is one of the reasons that thousands of Canadians suffer quietly with the financial impact of a critical illness. Cancer, kidney, heart, liver and lung diseases, are affecting hundreds of thousands of Canadians every year.
Yet patients do not talk about the financial impact of out of hospital costs that on average are in the tens of thousands of dollars. These costs can include; lost wages, travel to treatment centres, accommodation, medications, childcare, and even parking – which can be up to $28/day!
The Canadian Cancer Society has documented the financial impact.
In 2012, the Manitoba Division of the Canadian Cancer Society together with the Canadian Cancer Action Network, released a report documenting the staggering costs cancer patients face. The result was a five-year action plan to address the Financial Hardship of Cancer in Canada.
The report documents how almost all cancer patients face lower income at the time when out of hospital expenses can be catastrophic. However, this report has had limited impact.
With the other financial pressures on the middle class, heightened family debt, loss of employment, fewer and fewer Canadian families have the resources to handle the financial impact of cancer.
The Canadian Cancer Society has put in place a number of resources for cancer patients including hostels to stay while having treatment, and a volunteer network to provide transportation in many regions. However, the hostels are not free. For example, the Vancouver hostel is $55 a night for singles and $88 for a cancer patient and a support person, making a two month stay for a couple experiencing cancer over $5,000. On top of this are transportation, medication, and parking costs. It is easy to see how costs add up over time.
But, what if you don’t have cancer?
For many patients outside of the cancer community who also facing life threatening critical illness, there are far fewer resources. With Canada’s low population and large geography, many patients have to travel to a major centre for specialized treatment.
For example, in BC, all organ transplants and many cancer treatments are in Vancouver. Even with subsidies, the PCL bus between the Island and mainland is $96 return for a patient and their support person, while airfare costs from northern BC can be staggering.
Canada: A Vast Country Means Traveling to Get Treatment… and Paying Dearly For It
If you do not live in one of Canada’s major cities, chances are you will have to travel for many specialized treatments. Many of these costs are the patient’s responsibility and can be in the thousands of dollars. There is a piece meal system of paying for some of these costs, but it varies from region to region.
Like most patients, I was completely taken by surprise. When I went for my final liver transplant assessment in Vancouver, I was shocked to find out that it was up to me to find and rent a place to recover near the hospital, for what would work out to be four months! I wanted to scream “sick person here!”
In addition to financial resources, this site features other information and discussions of the important issues facing our health care system. We will touch on current controversial topics as well as provide practical information and commentary for those navigating our health system.
Accessing other supports can be very difficult for sick individuals who can barely leave their home to make doctor and specialist appointments. As a Certified Counsellor with 30 years experience, Peggy Mahoney is also offering counselling on line to those suffering from a serious illness. Those who live in the Victoria region can also access this support in person as Peggy will travel to patient’s homes to provide support. She offers these services at a reduced rate to make them more accessible.
If you do not live in Victoria, but want to meet with a counsellor in person, drop Peggy an email. The goal is to build a group of professionals across Canada who specialize in this emerging area and to add other professionals like nutritionist, physio therapists to the list of people that can be accessed locally or on-line.
Financial Hardship of Cancer in Canada: href=”http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2012/11/01/20121101_C3870_DOC_EN_19977.pdf”>http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2012/11/01/20121101_C3870_DOC_EN_19977.pdf