Hope Air offers financial support to Canadians who have to travel for medical care. In B.C., Prince George is one of their most-requested destinations and takeoff points, said Executive Director, British Columbia Stephanie Aldridge. /SUPPLIED

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Hope Air, a charity that helps Canadians with travel costs for medical appointments, held its inaugural “Hope Air Day” in Prince George on June 17th. The intention of the celebration is to raise awareness in B.C. for the charity’s services, said Stephanie Aldridge, Hope Air’s Executive Director, British Columbia.

Over the past two years, Hope Air has helped 11 patients and their escorts from McBride and Valemount, according to Aldridge. The organization paid for 28 flights and 11 nights of hotel accommodation, plus meals and ground transportation, she added.

“For people who are in financial need and live outside of large city centers, the distance to get (to a medical centre), the time to get there, and the costs, are all very real barriers to accessing the health care system that we are all entitled to,” Aldridge said. “We’re about reducing poverty, so people don’t have to pay for (travel) expenses out-of-pocket to access health care, we’re about improving health outcomes by making sure people get timely access to health care.”

In that vein, Hope Air funds travel accommodations for patients and escorts who would not otherwise be able to access health care. Helping people travel to and fly out of Prince George is one of the charity’s most common requests in B.C., said Aldridge.

“For people in smaller communities, we also support accommodation-only requirements,” Aldridge added. “So if they need to stay overnight in Prince George, we can support them with hotel arrangements for up to 14 nights. For some, we can provide them with meal vouchers for every night they’re overnighting there.”

To apply for support from Hope Air, patients or someone applying on behalf of a patient can fill out an online travel application at hopeair.ca, said Aldridge. According to her, the application takes about seven to 10 minutes and asks for the patient’s household income and the time and location of the medical appointment they’re hoping to attend.Those looking to support Hope Air can make a donation or sign a pledge of support on the charity’s website, Aldridge said.