A national charity is helping low-income New Brunswickers get access to specialized medical treatment by offering free flights to out-of-province health facilities.
Hope Air, the Toronto-based organization, isn't an airline but it helps patients fly to centres that have special medical treatments that patients can't get near their homes.
Harvey Station’s Heather MacInnis is one of a growing number of New Brunswickers who have used the air service.
MacInnis said she had enough to worry about when she headed to Toronto in January to wait for a double lung transplant.
'Access only starts at the front door of the hospital, or the specialists' clinic. So how you get there, really depends on your ability to travel, the cost, the distance.'— Doug Keller-Hobson, executive director of Hope Air
MacInnis said booking and paying for flights out of New Brunswick at the time was an added stress.
"I think people who are generally well really overestimate what kind of system we have here. You know, we are fortunate for what we do have. But there is a lot that isn't covered that people have no idea about," she said.
A hospital worker suggested MacInnis contact Hope Air to see if they’d help her organize her flights to Toronto.
The organization is funded by donations from airlines and private pilots.
So far this year, there have been 145 Hope Air flights for New Brunswickers, which is up from 138 in 2011.
Doug Keller-Hobson, the executive director of Hope Air, said transportation is a critical barrier to health care.
"Access only starts at the front door of the hospital, or the specialists' clinic. So how you get there, really depends on your ability to travel, the cost, the distance," he said.
"Those are enormous factors that really are barriers to universal healthcare."
Keller-Hobson said 13 per cent of Hope Air's clients say if it weren’t for the organization they would have missed their medical appointment.
"So that's an enormous measurement. That we're just getting people to their appointments," he said.
The organization’s website says it has offered 71,658 flights since 1986, 5,249 in the last 12 months and 110 this week.
The main reasons for travel are organ transplants, cancer care, genetic disorders, and respiratory disorders.