Northern Ontario Travel Grant standing in the way of healthcare treatment?

The Sleeping Giant Thunder Bay Business Digest

The Sleeping Giant

THUNDER BAY – My family is entering a difficult time where my wife is going for surgery for advanced stage 2 Thyroid and Lymph cancer. This will be followed by irradiated iodine therapy in the near future. As you can imagine she is a wonderful lady who has a strong spirit and my son and I intend to carry her through all of her upcoming trials.

I would like to start by saying that the medical care she has received has been exemplary from doctors and nurses to the support staff at the TBRHSC Cancer Center. They have all been amazing, caring, helpful and supportive.

Last week we hit a roadblock in her treatments which I never thought would be an issue in what seemed to be a very quick moving process.

She was flown to Toronto to meet the specialist for a pre-op consult. As per usual the flights and accommodations were paid out of pocket and the appointment was informative but uneventful. She returned to Thunder Bay without incident.

The following day she submitted her forms for the Northern Ontario Travel Grant. We were expecting a typical return time of about 4-6 weeks as we had heard that it was the average time for grant reimbursement. As we were told her surgery was going to be scheduled for January we had no problem with this reasonable time frame.

Last week was when the roadblocks went up. Dr. Irish has decided to make the booking for December 6 with a pre-op on December 5. This was good news indeed, I mean anytime one is talking about cancer related issues sooner is always better than later right?
The only issue was going to be financial as the first trip was quite costly and we were definitely going to require our reimbursement to afford the second trip. Most people these days I’m guessing don’t have $4000 to shell out for medical travel in such a short period of time especially a month before Christmas and we’re no different.

We have an 8 yr old son whom we are taking with us not for the lack of someone to watch him while this is going on but for the fact that this is his mommy and he wants to be apart of the process and support his mother. I will eat the cost on this without hesitation and will not be deterred from having him with us. It’s important to me that after losing 3 family members in the last few years that he see that cancer is beatable and that his mother will be ok.

So we’ve taken advantage of the cancer society who with the generous support of the public was able to look after the flight itinerary in advance and will graciously take reimbursement once our money is returned by the ministry. The major issues are accommodation and expenses as a week of room and board in Toronto these days is a premium even with medical rates. With so much money still in the system from the previous trip things are a little too tight.

The obvious solution was to call the Northern Ontario Travel Grant directly and see what could be done. We phoned the agency after getting a contact number from 211 and had hopes that they could help us. We couldn’t have been more wrong and our faith in the system that is supposed to assist us couldn’t have been more misplaced.

With a phone call to the agency my wife softly explained the situation we were in and that without the money from our first Travel Grant we would probably be unable to afford the second trip down for this imperative life saving surgery. She was abruptly told that they do not expedite reimbursements and that they are dealt with on a case by case basis. The worst part was that after being told that we might not be able to go without it she was told “Oh well.”

“Oh well” think about that statement. It’s nice to know that behind the bureaucracy and red tape of the ministry guidelines and through the anonymity of telephone services that this woman was able to demoralize, belittle and upset my wife in an already stressful situation.

I would like to point out that although it may be health care and a division of government it is still a people oriented service industry. Behaviour and insensitivity of this nature does irreparable harm cannot be tolerated and must be dealt with at the very least some measure of reprimand and sensitivity training.

I am the executive chef at a major food service operation, I write for the local newspaper and as such I have to daily deal with people who have varied needs. I can tell you unequivocally that if I or any one of our staff treated a guest in such a way there would be dire consequences. I can tell you that it would do irrevocable damage to our business and that you have to treat all people with respect, care and dignity.

Government is even more of a service industry than the hospitality industry. It is the actions of people like this that shake the faith that people have in their government. It cracks the foundations of trust that some of our elected officials have worked so hard to build and it is why “apathy instead of empathy” is growing in public service.

There has to be a better way….


Richard Moorey
Executive Chef DaVinci Centre
Freelance Food and Drink Writer
Proprietor MHS

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