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NDP continue fight for changes to travel grant program

By Randy Thoms Mar 4, 2024 | 3:44 PM

The opposition continues to fight for changes to the Northern Ontario Travel Grant program.

The program provides partial coverage of expenses when someone seeks medical care away from home.

A proposal to form a committee that would review and make recommendations to the government was defeated in a vote at Queen’s Park last week.

NDP MPP John Vanthof says the program is not keeping up with rising travel costs, especially the reimbursement for overnight stays.

“The fact is it’s impossible to rent a hotel room anywhere close to a major hospital for $100 a night,” says Vanthof.

“So right off the bat, northerners don’t have equal access. Furthermore, the travel costs do not, which are subsidized by the grant, nowhere come close to what the actual costs are.”

Health Minister Sylvia Jones deflected questions about the program by noting efforts to bring care closer to home for northerners.

This includes expanding primary care, ORNGE air ambulance service and providing hospitals with new services, like MRIs and CT scanners.

“Expanding access to primary care, expanding access to MRIs, expanding access to CT scanners in community, is an important piece to ensure that people do not have to do the travelling that historically they have had to do,” says Jones.

Jones says they have also made changes to the travel grant program.

It includes making it easier for people to receive their travel costs by allowing online access.