Air Creebec and the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay have signed an agreement to establish a second medical air charter to transport patients from Mistissini, Ouje-Bougoumou and Waswanipi, to Val-D’Or and Montreal. Starting July 11, 2016, one of three specially equipped Dash-8-100 turboprop planes will operate a service called the Inland Patient Air Charter, flying five times a week between Chibougamau in the interior of Northern Quebec, and the cities of Val-d’Or and Montreal. This service will serve Crees living in the inland communities of Mistissini, Ouje-Bougoumou, and Waswanipi.
People living in northern Quebec are often required to travel south when they are sick. Even by air, this is a journey that can take all day.
“This second charter service for patients is part of a larger commitment to improve the quality of services for patients and escorts travelling outside Eeyou Istchee.” says Kathy Shecapio, Director of Cree Patient Services.
The CBHSSJB, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec, operates one hospital and smaller clinics in each of the nine remote Cree First Nation (Eeyou/Eenou) communities of Eeyou Istchee, with a total population of 17,150 in 2014. The CBHSSJB’s Cree Patient Services department coordinates travel, lodging and medical appointments for patients who must leave their home community to obtain needed health services, usually in Val-d’Or, Montreal or Chibougamau. Between April 2015 and March 2016, 32, 066 appointments were taken by CPS in Val d’Or, Montreal and Chibougamau.
At Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, the Cree Patient Charter will take off and land at Air Creebec’s FBO terminal, allowing passengers to bypass the crowds and lineups of the main terminal. Passengers will benefit from swift check-in procedures and personalized attention.
This inland charter will increase significantly the quality of life of patients. While the charter is not designed for medical emergencies, in some cases it may enable the CBHSSJB to avoid the use of more expensive air ambulances.
“This project was initiated by our Board of Directors and the Chairperson, Bella Moses Petawabano,” says Daniel St-Amour, interim Executive Director of the CBHSSJB. “This inland charter is phase 2 of the air transport strategy. A third phase is being studied at the moment to explore the feasibility of a charter for the communities of Nemaska, Waskaganish and Eastmain.” continues St-Amour.
The maiden flight of the Cree Patient Air Charter service took off for Montreal following a ceremony and blessing of the plane by an elder at Chibougamau Airport on July 11, 2016. This second Cree Patient Air Charter marks the expansion of more comfortable, convenient, and efficient travel for Cree patients and their families.