For years, BC Ferries has provided priority boarding to passengers travelling for critical medical appointments.
However, that has changed recently due to the travel rules during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Vancouver Island family is now speaking out, saying those changes are making an already challenging situation even more difficult.
A few months after the Schafer family moved there years ago, their now-nine-year-old son, Kaydon, was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, or kidney disease.
“We just noticed our son was retaining water,” father Joshua Schafer said. “He was very lethargic. No energy.”
A few years later, the same thing happened to their daughter when she was three and a half years old.
“Our whole life just blew up all at once,” mother Christine Allanson told Global News.
The childrens’ doctors and specialists are mostly based in Vancouver, which means regular ferry rides for the family.
The BC Ferries Medical Assured Loading Program ensures reduced wait times at terminals for patients travelling by personal vehicle who are in need of urgent care.
Approved patients used to be issued letters that were good for a full year, but that has changed.
“We went to the booth and we found out they’re no longer accepting these letters or giving them out,” Schafer said.
Doctors must now make a request on behalf of patients and a letter is required every time.
Extended passes can be issued as long as the dates of future appointments are provided, but that is often not practical, especially with complications related to COVID-19.
“We don’t have the financial means to constantly pay for reservations, to get to the ferries, to get to the mainland,” Shafer said.
BC Ferries said the change in protocol is meant to ensure the program is being used as intended.
Allanson said the family really doesn’t need the extra stress this has caused.View link »