Yukoners seeking medical care outside the territory are being affected by the rising costs of hotels down south.
Although there have been recent increases to the per diem that the Yukon government pays medical travellers, some of those with upcoming procedures in Vancouver are feeling the pinch and think more could be done for them.
67-year-old Reginald Clements, who lives on a fixed income and must soon travel to Vancouver for a cancer operation, faces the possible cancellation of his late September surgery if he can’t find a place to stay. He faces significant barriers to getting an expensive Vancouver hotel room and doesn’t think the Yukon government does enough to assist medical travellers facing expenses.
In the face of fully-booked medical-specific lodging, Clements says he was presented with a list of hotels and other places he might stay, but all would cost more than $200 per night. Doctors are recommending that he stay in Vancouver for four days so the expense of lodging will add up. Further difficulty is created by the fact that Clements does not have a credit card; he says this is a requirement for reserving a place to stay.
Clements said the Yukon’s per diem for medical travel, about $150 per day away, is simply not enough to cover a hotel room in Vancouver, let alone meals and other expenses.
He said he is taking steps to try to find a cheaper place to stay, such as someone’s spare room, but he’s at risk of having to cancel his surgery if he can’t find something on short notice. He is also navigating the social assistance process as another possible solution but doesn’t know if money will come through in time.
Clements said flights for medical travel have always been booked for him by a Yukon government employee and he wonders why hotels couldn’t be handled in a similar way.
“I’m just not happy with the system and social assistance. Why would they come up with something stupid like this?” he said.
“B.C. is an expensive province to even go to, you know.”
Jenny Allen has also found the costs associated with medical travel expensive, but also added that the government did not inform her about one way of bringing those costs down. When seeking advice on finding accommodations for her upcoming trip to Vancouver on a Facebook forum, the Yukon Helpers Network, Allen said she had her attention drawn to a registry of hotels that provide a reduced rate for medical travellers.
Allen was able to book a hotel close to the site of her medical appointment that was first quoted to her at $399 per night for $199 a night.
She said medical travel remains a lot of work to organize.
“If the services can’t be provided here at the hospital that’s not my fault. Yukon government needs to step up,” Allen said.
Cameron Heke, a Yukon department of Health and Social Services representative, noted that the per diem paid for medical travel was doubled in response to an expert review of the Yukon’s health care system in 2021. It was increased again from $150 to $155 based on the rising Consumer Price Index.
Heke acknowledged that hotels can be difficult to afford and said that the health system review also recommended setting up government-operated residences in Whitehorse and Vancouver to reduce the need for medical travellers to stay in hotels. He said Health and Social Services is working to meet this recommendation.
Contact Jim Elliot at [email protected]