Your Rights When Accessing Medical Transportation Services

A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Paul Clairmont, FNHA Medical Transportation Programs Manager

If you are a First Nations person in BC living on reserve, you may have occasion to travel out of your community for medical care, as some important medical services may not be accessible where you live.

When accessing medical transportation services, you should know that privacy – complete confidentiality regarding your personal health care information – is your right as a patient, and that you should never feel pressured to provide details about the medical appointment or procedure to which you are being transported.

All health centres should have policies regarding privacy and confidentiality that protect your personal health information. These rights apply when using the Medical Transportation (MT) benefit.

The MT benefit supports all First Nations peoples to access medical care by assisting with costs associated with transportation, accommodation and food required to travel to your medical appointment. 

You can access the MT benefit if you are travelling to receive the following services:
  • Medical services covered by Medical Services Plan (MSP) or a public health agency
  • Services eligible under the Health Benefits Program, e.g., dental, vision, etc.
  • Traditional healers
  • Treatment at an FNHA-funded facility for substance use 
To claim the MT benefit, you'll be asked to provide some information:

Before your trip:
  • Provide written confirmation of your appointment from the health care provider you are visiting.
  • Complete and submit the Health Benefits Medical Transportation Form at least five business days before your trip.
  • Work with your Patient Travel Clerk to receive travel arrangements.
After your trip:
It is important to note that you should never be asked to disclose what the procedure is, your diagnosis, or any test results. The only time where disclosing the reason for your travel may be required is if you are flying to an appointment and are unvaccinated and applying for a medical exemption from the vaccine passport.

Medical Exemption

A medical exemption from the federal vaccine passport may be granted when travelling for essential medical care, which refers to booked appointments to receive medical services that are important to saving lives and improving health outcomes.

Travellers who think they may be eligible for this type of temporary exemption should:
  • access the form through their airline, cruise or railway company
  • have it signed by a Canadian licensed medical doctor or nurse practitioner
  • submit the form two​ weeks prior to departure and in accordance with the airline or railway company's exemption approval process. 
If you're travell​ing with multiple companies, you'll need to contact each company. If you receive approval for a temporary exemption, you'll also need to present a valid COVID-19 test before boarding.

Health centres do not need to know the reason for your appointment and it is your right to keep it confidential and private and still receive access to the MT benefit. For example, the BC Women's Hospital provides individuals with written confirmation of the date and time of appointment indicating that the traveller will be receiving a procedure, but does not specify what that procedure is in order to respect the privacy of clients.

​We know that travelling to receive care can be stressful, and we want to support any concerns you have in order to make your journey to and from your appointment as easy as possible. If travelling is not possible for you, you can call the First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day as well as the Maternal and Babies Advice Line; healthcare providers from these services will answer your questions and address your concerns. The Average Risk Screening Chart is also a useful tool in determining when to schedule your next health care appointment.

To access the MT benefit, contact your community's Patient Travel Clerk or call Health Benefits at 1-855-550-5454. 

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