Pensioner Leila, an artist and photographer, must travel to Vancouver for treatment for spasmodic dysphonia, a rare condition that affects her breathing. Leila is able to get to her specialist on free flights provided by Hope Air.
Case Study: Hope Air
Most Canadian provinces and territories have expanding populations in their most northern regions. Residents in these communities increasingly rely on air transportation for the most basic social and public services such as access to food products and emergency care.
Hope Air, a national charity founded in 1986 has provided over 80,000 free flights to guarantee access to specialized healthcare for low-income Canadians. About 28% of Hope Air’s clients say they would cancel or postpone their appointment if no free flight was available.
According to Statistic Canada’s January 2013 Health Profile, 32% of Canadians live in rural or small population communities. In certain parts of the country, there are few pediatricians, pediatric specialists in oncology, ophthalmology, or other treatment professionals in these communities. Some medical conditions, for both adults and children, require multiple trips for diagnosis and ongoing treatment. Air travel is the least stressful, safest, and most time-efficient manner for many remotely located Canadians to get to specialized healthcare that does not exist in their home communities.
Hope Air estimates that more than 400,000 low income Canadians living in rural and small communities across Canada may require ongoing access to specialized healthcare for myriad illness and medical conditions.
Importance of Aviation
On average, Hope Air’s clients have an income of $778 above the poverty line in their region of the country, meaning much of their income goes to basics such as housing, food, and clothing, leaving little to cover unexpected health challenges or trips to the care that is needed. Almost half of all flights provided by Hope Air are for children. No child flies alone. Mom, dad, or a guardian flies with the child free of charge.
“Canada has a great healthcare system, but depending on where you live and your financial situation, getting to the medical care you need can be a huge challenge. Imagine facing heart surgery and a 10-hour drive to get to hospital to care or, for example, a bus ride of 7 hours with a child recovering from radiation or chemotherapy,” said Hope Air’s Executive Director Doug Keller-Hobson. “Canada’s aviation sector offers important assistance to people facing serious health challenges who must travel long distances to care and offers the best means of reducing the financial, physical and emotional stress of travel, as well as limiting time away from work, school and family.”
Flying makes sense based on Canada’s physical – and healthcare – landscape. Aviation is the least stressful, most time-efficient, and cost-effective manner for Canadians to get to specialized healthcare that does not exist in their home communities.
“Specialized care, like ophthalmology, frequently requires that the patient travel to the specialist, who is most often located in larger centres such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver,” says Barry Lubek, an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine (ophthalmology) at the University of Toronto and a volunteer pilot with Hope Air. “Because of the flights from Hope Air, some patients, depending upon their location, can make a trip for care in a day or as an overnight trip, seriously reducing their travel costs, time away from work or school, and their anxiety.”
Hope Air performed over 7,000 flights in 2013 – the most ever in a single year.