August 2011 – If you think flying more than a few hours is too long and uncomfortable to go for a medical procedure, try the bus.
Some Canadians take motor coaches to get to their out-of-town medical appointments.
“There is a huge need for this type of service,” admits Northern Ontario politician and health critic France Gélinas.
“Finding a driver or driving yourself to medical appointments can be a stressful time for people,” said Dean Wright, general manager at PWT, the company providing the bus transportation. “We want to help make those trips less stressful, more convenient, reliable and comfortable.”
The program is based on PWT’s current operations in British Columbia. That service began in 2006, currently services 14 communities and delivered more than 10,000 people to medical appointments and back home in 2010. They started by serving four centres and moving 2,000 people.
The coach would pick people up at their local hospital and bring them directly to their destination out of town. The route would included 300 km. of the major Highway 17 corridor between the towns of Greater Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
Wheelchairs, medical apparatus, and videos
The Health Connections motor coach is a luxury model fitted to enhance the travelling experience for the patients.
The key features have been implemented to raise the quality of service for wheelchair patients. A track flooring system accommodates wheelchair and scooter passengers.
Bus seats can be reconfigured to fit eight people in wheelchairs. The washroom is also wheelchair accessible, and there is also a wheelchair lift.
The buses can hold up to 50 people, or 35 people and eight wheelchair passengers. The coach also features extensive entertainment options including DVDs, video screens, music players and standard electrical outlets to allow people to plug in their own medical or entertainment devices.
“It’s kind of unique,” Wright said. “Ease of use and convenience and comfort is what it is all about.”
Wright hopes to work with the province’s Northern Health Travel Grant so that most of the service’s cost is covered. He said he’s currently in talks with the province.
“This will be an affordable option,” he said. “The British Columbia service is 80 to 90 percent funded by the provincial government and users pay a $20 fee to ride. It’s really cheap.”