In the north, many of us know all too well the obstacles we face when seeking medical attention. Most of us have travelled hours to see a doctor or specialist. For those who need more serious treatment on a regular basis, this may mean spending many days and hours commuting to their appointments.
This can be very costly and time consuming, especially for individuals whose illness prevents them from working. For these folks, forced to survive on disability, their income is inadequate to cover or front such costs as travel. They depend on the Northern Health Travel Grant to cover their costs. But significant delays for reimbursement are causing serious problems for many northerners.
Despite multiple promises by the McGuinty Liberals to fix the program, people continue to wait months for support from the Northern Health Travel Grant.
In the legislature this week, I raised the plight of a constituent from Chapleau, who must travel to Timmins for dialysis three times a week and has experienced long delays with the Northern Health Travel Grant program.
She must drive 12 hours a week and stay in Timmins overnight when the road conditions are bad. It is an exhausting and stressful position to be in. But to make matters worse, she is waiting as long as 3 months to be reimbursed and is being forced into debt waiting for her cheques.
In the summer of 2011, the Premier promised to simplify this program with online applications and ensure a three-week guarantee on reimbursements.
The sad fact is that the Premier has promised to fix problems in the Northern Health Travel Grant three times now and instead families are left with three broken promises.
In the Legislature this week, the McGuinty government failed to acknowledge the broken promises or offer any assurance that they will be moving forward with the three-week service guarantee.
Ontario’s New Democrats are frustrated with the broken promises that are leaving northern Ontarians unable to access the care that they need.
For many Ontarians, timely and consistent service by the Northern Health Travel Grant is needed to access medically necessary health care. The Liberals are playing games, and northern Ontarians are wondering why they should trust this government to deliver on health care promises when year after year, they go broken.
People living in rural and northern communities are already experiencing more obstacles than urban dwellers. All Ontarians deserve the same access to healthcare regardless of where you live. New Democrats continue to strongly advocate for improvements in northern healthcare.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about this issue, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710/1-800-831-1899.
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