Islanders who had to fly to Prince Rupert to keep medical appointments when ferry service was suspended last week will have their plane fares covered by the Ministry of Health, says MLA Gary Coons’s office. Mr. Coons spoke to Health Minister George Abbott about the situation in the hallways of the Legislature on Thursday (Nov. 23), said constituency assistant Pauline Woodrow. Mr. Abbott told the MLA that his ministry will reimburse medical passengers who had to fly to Rupert instead of taking the ferry.
“Health Minister George Abbott has assured me that his ministry will cover the costs incurred for trave;,” Mr. Coons said, “It’s my expectation that BC Ferries and the ministry will make arrangements so that the next time there is a service disruption, people wont have to pay out-of-pocket for necessary medical travel.”
However, there will be no money for non-medical travellers who were forced to fly, such as the senior girls’ volleyball team from Queen Charlotte Secondary. Under the province’s travel assistance program, medical passengers (with a vehicle and escort, if required) can travel free on BC Ferries, but only receive a 30-percent discount on plane tickets. With no ferry service available, islanders who had appointments in Prince Rupert had to spend a couple of hundred dollars to get there and back, plus the additional cost of taking taxis once they were there. According to the MLA’s office, the Ministry of Health is willing to cover flights and will consider reasonable taxi fares for patients while in Prince Rupert. There is no specific claim form. People affected should write a letter with receipts, dates, their personal health number, and the confirmation number from their TAP form or a copy of the TAP form. The Ministry says that people who have already redeemed their TAP forms when making a ferry reservation which could not be honoured by BC Ferries should include their personal health number so TAP can confirm their approved travel. Islanders who provided their TAP form to North Pacific seaplanes should provide documentation including the confirmation number and copies of their receipts, personal health number and a copy of the TAP form if possible. Letters should be mailed to the Travel Assistance Program, Ministry of Health, 3-2 1515 Blanshard Street, Victoria, V8W 3C8. Ms Woodrow advises people to make a copy of the letter and all documents before sending them. Her office knows of at least three islanders who had to shell out for plane fares so they didn’t lose doctors’ appointments, but there are probably several more. For more information or assistance, call Mr. Coons’s office at 1-866-624-7734.
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