An increasing number of Fort St. John area residents are using an organization to get to their out of town medical appointments.
Hope Air is a national non-profit organization that provides free flights to residents who need to attend non-emergency appointments, in larger city centres. For Fort St. John residents, those specialized centres are usually Vancouver and Edmonton.
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The organization relies on seat donations by regional or national airlines as well as pilots that volunteer their time and planes to fly residents to their medical appointments. Occasionally, the organization will also purchase seats on commercial flights for patients, says Doug Keller-Hobson, the organization’s executive director.
Keller-Hobson says the organization also receives funding from the B.C. government to help it purchase seats for residents.
The funding does not appear to come without good reason. Last year alone, he says Hope Air organized 3,700 flights across Canada, 2,000 of which were in B.C.
In the Fort St. John area, the number of residents using the organization’s services has been steadily growing. In 2008, the organization provided 57 flights from Fort St. John to Vancouver, which increased to 144 in 2010. Similarly, the number of flights provided from Fort St. John to Edmonton increased from 16 in 2008 to 46 in 2010.
He says Hope Air primarily provides flights for residents based on their financial need. The second criterion is that someone must be going to a confirmed medical appointment that is covered by the province’s medical services plan.
He says the organization does not discriminate based on age or illness and has flown residents to many different appointments from cancer treatments to transplants, to treatments for eating disorders.
For more information on the organization, click here.