professionals who meet specificpatient needs. The Edmonton NorthPCN includes a social worker whohelps patients connect to government,charitable and community programs andservices that help offset healthcare costs.
Those costs can add up when people arediagnosed with serious illnesses such ascancer.
“Most people don’t realize how
expensive cancer care can be,” says
Jennifer Van Dyk, a social worker in the
Psychosocial and Spiritual Resources
Department at the Cross Cancer Institute
in Edmonton. “If they aren’t aware of
the resources out there they can end up
exhausting their savings or quitting their
All of Alberta’s cancer centres
give their patients information about
finances and support available in their
community. “The earlier a patient can
see a social worker, the better,” Van Dyk
says. “We can minimize the anxiety
about their finances so they can focus on
their treatment and recovery.”
Mandy Hirkala is a social worker
with the Bonnyville Community Cancer
Centre. She works closely with the nurse
navigators who help patients through the
stages of their cancer care.
“If someone mentions to a nurse that
Christmas will be tight because of cancer
care costs, the nurse will let me know.
I follow up with the patient about their
financial or other non-medical concerns
Hirkala and her colleagues across the
province help with all aspects of need.
That can range from finding volunteer
drivers for patients who can’t afford
transportation into Edmonton for
specialized therapies, to finding low-cost
lodging in Bonnyville for rural patients
so they can be closer to treatment.
Many people stop going to the dentistwhen money is tight. Because visits todentists are not covered by standardprovincial health plans, much of the costof dental care comes from a patient’spocket, especially if they don’t haveadditional health insurance.
Help is out there. Dental assistanceprograms are available for low-incomeAlbertans, says Dr. Randall Croutze,CEO of the Alberta Dental Associationand College.
But roughly half of people eligiblefor the programs do not use them, oftenbecause they are unaware such helpexists.
“Our members use the same respectful
approach for every patient in outlining
procedures and costs,” he says. “When
patients bring up financial concerns,
the conversation can then become one
of helping them. Dentists and their staff
know the resources available, and can
connect patients with what they need.”
We all pay when people can’t afford
healthcare costs. One recent study, for
example, found 10 per cent of people
don’t take the right amount of their heart
medications because of costs. This results
in a 70 per cent chance of them needing
emergency care or hospital stays, which
are far more expensive.
Turning an awkward conversation intoan opportunity for better health is a goalthat healthcare professionals embrace.They see it as an essential and naturalpart of providing care to their patients.It’s the first step in helping people get thesupport they need to stay healthy. Andthat’s worth talking about. |a