Métis Nation-Saskatchewan launches travel reimbursement program for cancer patients

The province says more than five million dollars has been spent to install a TrueBeam linear accelerator at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency's Allan Blair Cancer Centre in Regina.
A new pilot program administered by Metis Nation-Saskatchewan will reimburse travel costs for Metis cancer patients in the province. Adrian Raaber / Global News File

Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) is hoping to make cancer treatment more accessible to Métis patients with the launch of a pilot program.

The Cancer Transportation Pilot Program will see eligible patients reimbursed for some travel costs, such as gas, parking and car rental.

“There are only two cancer clinics in Saskatchewan. One in Saskatoon and one in Regina,” said MN-S Health Minister Marg Friesen. “People sometimes have to travel for up to 8 hours to find cancer treatment or specialty appointments. Out-of-pocket travel expenses can run as high as $1,200 to $1,600.”

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Friesen said her organization has heard repeated complaints and concerns about transportation access since the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) in 2017.

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She said the elimination of the STC “caused great barriers” both for medical and general travel, and is part of the motivation behind the new program.

“It was very cost-effective to travel with public transportation to travel across the province to get where you need to go, and it was also for people who don’t drive,” said Friesen. “Some, perhaps, don’t have the means or they may have a disability that limits them from driving.”

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The program is open to provincial residents who are registered MN-S citizens who are suffering from cancer.

The person must also have access to an available vehicle and driver and provide contact information for the attending clinic.

The Cancer Transportation Pilot Program is valued at $30,000, will be open until 2022 and was funded through partnerships with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and a number of Saskatchewan-based cancer agencies and universities.

Friesen said her organization hopes to continue to offer the program after the conclusion of the pilot, and said expansion such as adding coverage for the costs of accommodation will be considered when the pilot is evaluated.