When people are feeling ill, the last thing that they want to do is drive an hour to Fort St. John for their medical treatment.
Yet for many people who need dialysis for kidney disease, or require other specialist treatment, there are not many options for health care transportation. This can have severe consequences.
"You might be able to miss one or two days [of dialysis], but any more you're going to get sick," said Jim Norquay. "It depends on how bad your kidneys are."
He has been providing transportation to Fort St. John for Dawson Creek residents who need medical treatment.
Currently, about five people take advantage of this service, but that number has varied over the years.
Seniors predominantly use his service, said Norquay, but he has helped patients of all ages.
Some of Norquay’s riders do not have their own vehicles, forcing many of them to use the service.
As well, some of them live on seniors pension, which Norquay said make it difficult to pay for other forms of transportation.
Currently, Norquay charges them whatever they can provide to help with the service.
The B.C. Renal Agency, whose mandate is to plan and coordinate the care of patients with kidney disease, lists three units providing hemodialysis in the northern portion of B.C. These include Prince George, Terrace, and Fort St. John.
Norquay said that currently a bus route provides transportation services from Dawson Creek to Fort St. John, but that these services do not always mesh with the needs of patients who require dialysis.
The Northern Health Connections bus services departs Fort St. John at 8 a.m., and arrives in Dawson Creek at 9 a.m. every Monday and Friday, according to the Northern Health website.
The bus service leaves Dawson Creek at 2:55 p.m. and arrives in Fort St. John at 3:50 p.m. on the same day.
The Fort St. John dialysis centre operates from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., according to the BC Renal website.
Northern Health spokeswoman Eryn Collins said that only certain patients are allowed on this bus line.
Norquay said that some dialysis operations could take up to four hours, which means that if they arrived in Fort St. John, their dialysis could take them past the centre’s opening hours.
As well, provided they only used the Northern Health Connections line, that would potentially force them to stay overnight in Fort St. John.
Another line goes from Chetwynd through Dawson Creek to Grande Prairie every Wednesday. That service leaves the city at 8:20 a.m. and arrives in Grande Prairie at 10 a.m.
Norquay said that many dialysis patients he has spoken with said they need dialysis three times a week.
"Ideally, it'd be nice if the trips went up for dialysis, if timing fit into my dialysis patients’ schedules," said Norquay.
Collins said that eye, foot, stress, and nuclear medicine (x-ray) specialists provide clinics in Fort St. John, but not Dawson Creek.
However, before Norquay goes further with this idea and seeks funding from Northern Health to do so, he would like to see how many people within the community are interested in this service.
He said that he had approached a worker in the Fort St. John hospital, who told him that some specialists who are brought in once a month see approximately 400 patients.
He admitted that this number was rough, and did not have any official backing towards it.
Norquay’s proposal has also received some help locally.
Jane Harper, the Executive Director of the South Peace Community Resources Society (SPCRS), said that her group had given some support to Norquay in hopes of getting his proposal off the ground.
“It’s just an addition to the Northern Health’s bus, which doesn’t go so often, so it’ll augment it.”