By The Canadian Press
Nova Scotia is considering what it can do to help defer the costs of patients waiting out of province for procedures such as lung transplants, the province's health minister said Thursday.
Chris d'Entremont confirmed the options included looking at additional funding for such things as living expenses.
"We're looking at the numbers right now," d'Entremont told reporters outside the weekly cabinet meeting.
He said a review was underway to determine where money could be found to fund what would be a "drastic policy change" that could cost tens of millions of dollars.
The minister said with thousands of Nova Scotians having to go outside the province for surgeries and treatments tough decisions would have to be made if more help is offered.
"Are we going to cover airline tickets, the hotels or the extended long stays like a double lung transplant recipient? We need to really look at that and really have an idea of what kind of costs and what other programs we're going to maybe have to put on hold in order to cover it."
D'Entremont said that he wasn't sure how long such a review would take, but added that if more help where to become available it wouldn't be in the immediate future.
"We're not ruling it out, but we're taking our time to look at it correctly," he said. "It would probably have to be in another budget year because it is a large item."
Nova Scotia currently pays for operations and medical costs for patients waiting for lung transplants, but only Newfoundland and Labrador covers other items such as travel and accommodations.
The program in that province provides up to $2,200 per month towards a patient's living expenses as well as money to cover air travel so spouses can visit.
Nova Scotia has been feeling heat over the issue after media reports about a double lung transplant patient from Cape Breton who maintains she may have to return home without her operation because of high living expenses in Toronto. (read the CBC News Report about the plight of Marilyn MacKay who has spent her life savings, over $20,000, waiting in Toronto since August, 2007 for her lung transplant)
D'Entremont said the province was continuing to explore ways to help patients through various associations and community fundraising initiatives.
Read a follow-up article in the Aug. 22 issue of The ChronicleHerald.
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