The B.C. government is promising $20 million to cover travel costs for people receiving cancer treatment in B.C.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the funding would help cover costs for people travelling to Victoria or Vancouver for care after a cancer diagnosis.
The new funding was announced after B.C. said it may send up to 50 cancer patients a week to Bellingham, Washington, for radiation treatment – covering costs for flights, hotels and meals.
Many felt that was unfair because people largely have to pay out of pocket when travelling within B.C. for cancer care, which for Islanders may include flying or taking a ferry off Vancouver Island.
Wednesday’s announcement also included a change to income eligibility for support.
Previously, the cutoff for aid was $30,000 for a family, now that’s been increased to $150,000, so more people can access the programs.
The Canadian Cancer Society says it will use its $10 million of funding to expand its “Wheels of Hope” program to more Vancouver Island communities.
The program has volunteers driving people from rural communities to cancer treatments.
The society said it would also eliminate its $55 daily fees for stays at its lodges.
Meanwhile, Hope Air says its $10 million of funding will be used to double the number of free flights it offers to cancer patients.
It’ll also be used to double the number of accommodations it pays for people, to more than 3,000 people, and boost hotel stays from five to 14 days.
Hope Air says it will also offer a larger voucher for meals and Uber trips.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, that Jennifer [Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions], has wanted to do for a long time, and we are doing it today,” said Dix on Wednesday.
“This is an improvement on what has been the status quo, and we are doing it because we believe that taking away the financial burden from people is an important way to ease them through what’s a very difficult cancer journey.”
Eventually, cancer care will get a little easier for Islanders when a new cancer centre opens in Nanaimo.
The new cancer centre is scheduled to open in 2027, allowing people who live in the North and Mid-Island to stay closer to home, rather than travel to Victoria or Vancouver.
With files from CHEK News’ Rob Shaw.