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Nunavut expands its medical travel benefits for parents

Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes announced changes to Nunavut’s medical travel benefits that will allow parents better access to escorts.
(Photo by Beth Brown)By Sarah RogersThe Government of Nunavut has expanded its medical travel benefits to offer better support to parents and pregnant mothers travelling out of their community for care.
Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes told the legislature on Friday, Feb. 22, that parents who are escorting their child on medical travel may now bring their infants with them.For years, Nunavummiut parents who have to escort a child out of their community for medical care have been forced to leave other infants at home—even though babies don’t require a separate airfare—or pay their own way.Parents have complained about the policy, saying it separates babies from their primary caregiver and can discriminate against breastfeeding mothers.
Hickes said the upgraded policy will now also provide an escort to all pregnant women who leave their home community to give birth.Previously, expectant mothers could only have an escort if they had the medical need for one or if they were covered under the Non-Insured Health Benefits program.“Health recognizes that finding appropriate childcare in Nunavut is a challenge and that infants are best supported by staying with a guardian when possible,” Hickes said.“It is also essential that we provide sufficient support to mothers who are travelling to give birth away from home.”The change comes thanks to a $2.7-million injection into Nunavuts medical travel program announced in last weeks budget.
The GN will spend $90 million over the next year on medical travel in Nunavut, the majority of that on air fares.The upgraded benefits are still subject to the GN’s standard client and escort review and approvals process, Hickes said.
Before the change, Nunavummiut could apply to bring an escort or an additional child with them on medical travel. The expanded program should help clarify the eligibility for clients and their escorts, Hickes said.
The changes stem from an ongoing review of medical travel in Nunavut, which has largely been carried out through consultations with medical travel clients and health service providers.Patients should contact Nunavut’s medical travel department for more information on how to access the new benefits.
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