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Family concerned about changes to BC Ferries’ program for urgent medical travel

Click to play video: 'Concerns about changes to medical assured loading on BC Ferries' Concerns about changes to medical assured loading on BC Ferries
A Vancouver Island family who relies heavily on BC Ferries' assured loading for critical medical appointments says changes to the annual pass program mean they'll be forced to apply for priority boarding every time they have an appointment. Sarah MacDonald reports – Jul 19, 2020

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.

Click to play video: 'B.C. ferry workers’ union concerned about new mask rules' B.C. ferry workers’ union concerned about new mask rules
B.C. ferry workers’ union concerned about new mask rules – Jun 9, 2020

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.

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“We just noticed our son was retaining water,” father Joshua Schafer said. “He was very lethargic. No energy.”

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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.

Read more: ‘People who are honest don’t get on the ferry’: BC Ferries customers call for resident ID checks

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.

Click to play video: 'B.C. ferry workers’ union concerned about new mask rules' B.C. ferry workers’ union concerned about new mask rules
B.C. ferry workers’ union concerned about new mask rules – Jun 9, 2020

Doctors must now make a request on behalf of patients and a letter is required every time.

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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.

Read more: Coronavirus: BC Ferries passengers must now have face coverings when on board

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.

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