If you had to decide between paying out of pocket for a 210 kilometre drive to Fort Nelson and a $600 flight to Prince George, B.C., or a paid-in-full 286 kilometre drive to Fort Simpson with an approximately 1 hour flight and a possible 2 hour flight to Edmonton what would you choose?

Deh Cho residents have been travelling long distances for medical services, including the 200-km drive from Fort Liard to Fort Nelson, B.C.

That’s exactly what the residents of the Dehcho/Nahendeh have to do to get medical services not available in the community.

Nahendeh MLA, Shane Thompson, had the opportunity to discuss the issue of why Fort Liard residents can’t use the services offered by the Fort Nelson Hospital.

“What has happened is we have people that are residents in my riding in Fort Liard who have to actually go from Fort Liard to Simpson to Yellowknife down to Edmonton to see a doctor and get treatment,” Thompson said. “It’s a three hour drive, then another hour drive and another two hour flight. It’s pretty tiresome on people.”

Thompson said residents don’t see the sense in spending more money on services to get to Yellowknife or Edmonton when there are services down the road at a lesser cost.

“Unfortunately, our resident’s from Fort Liard, their referral is always to Yellowknife or Edmonton and it’s not to Ft. Nelson which doesn’t make any sense. Residents can go to Ft. Nelson, but when they do that they have to foot the bill for that,” he said. “There has been clients that have gone to Ft. Nelson and end up going to Prince George and hospitals beyond. And then, sometimes they don’t have a translator or an escort with them. And that puts them in spots.”

In a letter to constituents on Facebook Thompson included a response from the minister of Health, Glen Abernethy, regarding a cross border agreement with BC.

“Once the Alberta agreement is finalized, the Department will investigate the implications of referring some patients in the Dehcho/Nahendeh region to Fort Nelson, British Columbia to receive health services,” Abernethy stated in a reply to Thompson’s inquiry on the status of the negotiations. “We are committed to completing a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it would be feasible to establish a specific service agreement for residents of the Dehcho/Nahendeh between the NWT and BC.”

Abernethy also stated that cost of medical travel, continuity of clinical care, integration of services and follow-up would all be considerations in the cost-benefit analysis.

Minister Abernethy did not return a request for an interview with News/North as of press time.

Thompson added in his letter to constituents that the minister gave a date for finalizing agreements with Alberta to close early in 2018.

“The Alberta one has changed a bit since the new election from the progressive conservative party to the NDP, so they have to finalize the negotiation process and it’s taking a little bit longer than they said they were going to do,” Thompson said. “Then they said they would look into doing the same with BC.”