Northern exploits

The alleged abuse of emergency medical flights by staff at the Poplar Hill nursing station demonstrates a clear exploitation of taxpayers’ money.

According to a recently released investigation by the Canadian Press based on a Health Canada report, these nurses from the northwestern Ontario community were using these very medical emergency flights to pick up groceries for themselves.

This in and of itself isn’t what’s concerning — after all, there’s nothing wrong with nurses picking up groceries as a pit stop on a pre-planned medical trip.

Food in these northern communities is astronomically more expensive than elsewhere in Canada. Heads of cabbage have been known to cost upwards of $25, while cases of 24 water bottles reach over $100, according to one Huffington Post article.

It’s understandable then that, if one can buy food at a cheaper price in the same town that offers the needed medical services, the nurses would take advantage of the opportunity.

If they were purchasing food for other members of the community to help them save money as well, then their actions would be more justifiable.

However, these flights have seemingly far less innocent motives.

Nurses in this region are able to arrange urgent medical transport outside of regular working hours. The report accuses the nurses of using these trips which require more resources than pre-planned trips, solely for the sake of getting groceries.

Furthermore, by choosing what’s reported to be the most expensive airline, Keeper River Airways, instead of two cheaper available alternatives, the nurses cost the government much more money than necessary.

The actions of the nurses in question demonstrate a clear lack of judgment. Instead of flying to the nearest town, which was only a 12-minute journey away, the nurses would often fly to a town over twice as far without giving any solid explanation to their reasoning, the investigation reports.

In total, this led to an excess of over $650,000 spent on flights — flights that were used for solely selfish purposes.

The abuse of the emergency flights is a waste of money for the government, for taxpayers, and, ultimately, for those living in Northern communities whose precious medical resources are being squandered.

—Journal Editorial Board

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