McGuinty Government Improves Access To Health Care For Northerners
Rates Increased and Accommodation Included In New Northern Health Travel Grant
The government is making it easier for northerners to access health care by raising the reimbursement mileage rate and providing support for accommodation costs under the Northern Health Travel Grant Program, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today.
"Everyone should have access to high-quality health care -- no matter where they live in this province," said Premier McGuinty. "For northerners, that can mean travelling away from home to access some procedures -- it's only right that we provide fair compensation for the cost of receiving care in a timely manner."
This $8.6 million-investment will increase the mileage rate from 34.25 cents per kilometre to 41 cents per kilometre starting July 1, 2007. The funding will also help speed up the payment process by upgrading the processing system.
And for the first time, the government will provide financial support for an overnight accommodation allowance of up to $100 for each eligible trip a patient makes, beginning in October.
"This investment means residents will get quicker payment for their travel expenses," said Minister of Health and Long-Term Care George Smitherman. "Today's announcement ensures Northern Ontario residents have the travel flexibility, as may be medically needed, to receive medical specialist care in the timeliest manner possible."
The Northern Health Travel Grant Program helps defray the transportation costs for residents of northern Ontario who travel long distances to access non-emergency, medical specialist services. Northern Ontario residents file over 155,000 applications for travel assistance every year. The program is part of the McGuinty government's wait-time strategy, which is designed to improve access to five key health procedures.
Improving health travel grants is just one way the McGuinty government is moving forward to improve health services and reduce wait times for people in northern Ontario. Other initiatives include:
- Improved access to cardiac procedures for residents in northwestern Ontario with $2.8 million to provide angioplasty services for 550 patients every year
- Creating 29 Family Health Teams that have enrolled over 13,000 orphan patients in northern Ontario, and
- Investing $3.4 million to fund four new Community Health Centres and satellite CHCs recently announced for northern Ontario.
"We're bringing down wait times, but numbers are just part of the story -- what we're really talking about is care for people," said Premier McGuinty. "So we'll continue working with northerners and all Ontarians to make universal public health care stronger so that it meets the needs of Ontarians today and for generations to come."