British Columbia

Doctor's note or not, all seniors in Northern B.C. now have access to medical bus program

The move to expand eligibility for the medical bus service comes as Greyhound leaves the region, leaving a gap in transit options.

Move comes as Greyhound cancels service in region, leaving gap in transit options

The bus program was previously restricted to those attending medical appointments or services. (Northern Health Connections )

A medical bus service in Northern British Columbia is changing its rules and offering rides to anyone over 60 — whether they have a doctor's note or not.

The Northern Health Connections program, launched in 2006, has long been restricted to passengers accessing medical services.

The move to expand eligibility for the service comes as Greyhound leaves the region. The last Greyhound buses between northern B.C communities depart on Thursday.

"We felt that transportation to this group is a preventative initiative that will keep people healthier, longer in their communities," said Steve Raper, chief of communications for Northern Health.

Transportation for health

A report published earlier this month from B.C.'s Office of the Seniors Advocate emphasized transportation as one of the top priorities for seniors in the province and found that more services are needed to address the gap. 

Raper says it's important to help seniors stay connected to friends and family in other cities, as loneliness has been identified as a growing health concern.

Health Minister Adrian Dix agrees.

"Health care isn't just about hospitals," said Dix. "It's about being able to access the full range of services that are available across communities."

The Northern Health Connections service runs between towns in the north as well as between Prince George and Vancouver.

"We want to continue to make sure that the vulnerable population doesn't get left behind," Raper said.

In addition to anyone over the age of 60, Northern Health is also making the bus service available to anyone with mobility challenges.

With files from Daybreak North and Nicole Oud.