East Kootenay Patients

Medical patients in the East Kootenay region are demanding increased support, as many are compelled to travel long distances to receive necessary care.

According to the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), cancer patients in the Kootenay area requiring radiation therapy must journey to a B.C. Cancer center in Kelowna or elsewhere in the province for treatment. Similarly, nine-year-old Sawyer Sutton and his family must travel over 800 kilometers from Cranbrook to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for his Juvenile Crohn’s disease treatment.

Sawyer’s father, Paul Sutton, expresses the strain it places on their lives and finances, lamenting the distance that complicates their access to appointments. Sawyer’s grandmother, Debi Hart, shares their struggles, despite utilizing various funding programs, including provincial support.

Crohn’s disease, an incurable inflammatory bowel disease, necessitates frequent trips for Sawyer’s care. Approximately 500 patients from the Kootenay region travel annually for B.C. Cancer center treatments, with 250 East Kootenay patients receiving radiation therapy in 2022-23.

East Kootenay

Cranbrook resident Len Moody, battling prostate cancer, spent a month in Kelowna for radiation therapy last year, incurring significant personal expenses despite seeking provincial assistance. He voices feelings of neglect in the southeast corner of the province, echoing concerns about unequal medical resource allocation.

Despite recent funding announcements, including a 10-year cancer plan costing $440 million and $20 million allocated for patient travel assistance, residents continue to struggle. Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledges the issue’s importance but recognizes the need for sustained action to address these challenges.

Angel Flight East Kootenay was founded in 2019 by Brent Bidston to help with the above medical shortfall, their mission is to fly residents of the East Kootenays to medical appointments in Kelowna.

Their flight days are Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday. Flights leave Cranbrook at 9.30am MT, ensuring patients are in Kelowna for 11am PST appointments. For same day travel back to Cranbrook, patients are expected to return to the airport by 1pm PST.

They fly our pressurized twin Cessna 414A out of the Bid Air Terminal at the Cranbrook International Airport. As a registered charity they are currently accepting donations to be able to continue offering free flights. Every donation goes a long way, and you can choose to have a tax receipt for your donation if you would like.

Source: BC Rural Health Network

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