N.W.T. MLA’s motion to pay medical escorts fails

Northwest Territories MLAs debated a motion to compensate people who escort their loved ones on medical travel. In the end, the motion failed in a narrow vote.

Some Northwest Territories MLAs are pushing for more financial help for people who escort their loved ones on medical travel.

Yesterday they debated a motion to compensate people for their time.

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya introduced the motion.

“Travel into our small communities is quite stressful and hectic. Travelling out of our communities is also stressful, especially on medical travel,” Yakeleya said, noting that his motion would apply primarily to those who travel for an extended period of time. 

Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli says he worries about elders travelling to Yellowknife or Edmonton.

"Just the thought of them being alone. Being unilingual: not able to communicate in another language. They have very specific dietary needs and cultures. Culture is always a big impediment in terms of understanding elders, especially First Nations cultures."

Some MLAs proposed a fund for people who otherwise couldn't afford to take the time to offer support. Others suggested medical escorts have to prove they need the funding before they get it.

Medical escorts do receive a per diem for food and lodging.

Several MLAs say the territory could never afford to reimburse family members for lost wages on top of that.

Glen Abernethy is the health minister.

“Already we spend tens of millions of dollars on medical travel. I hear everyday, ‘Find a way to control the costs of medical travel. Find a way to control the costs of medical travel.’”

Abernethy says he will review per diem rates and the medical travel policy.

Eight MLAs voted in favour and eight were opposed.

In the end, the motion failed.

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