One in four residents of Northern Ontario cancel medical appointments due to distance: one in five due to cost.

New Hope Air survey reveals significant challenges in ensuring equitable access to health care.

Hope Air released today the results of a survey that sheds light on issues relating to access to health care for patients living in Northern Ontario and other rural communities. The research was conducted by CAA Club Group of Companies in partnership with their preferred vendor and engaged 1,511 respondents from across the province.

The following key findings reveal significant challenges in ensuring equitable access to health care:

    1. 64 per cent of residents in Northern Ontario had to travel outside of the city/town they live in for medical appointments for specialized health appointments.

    2. 19 per cent of Northern Ontario residents are travelling over four hours to reach specialized health care, with six per cent travelling more than nine hours.

    3. About one in four residents living in Northern or rural communities have had to cancel a medical appointment due to distance to care. One in five due to travel costs.

    4. 73 per cent of people living in Northern Ontario communities believe that it is the responsibility of the provincial government to pay for travel for medical care.

    5. 42 per cent of Northern Ontario residents believe that distance could present a barrier and 44 per cent believe that their financial situation could present a barrier to accessing health care.
“The results of this survey unequivocally confirm that enhanced medical travel supports are needed for patients who reside in Northern Ontario,” said Mark Rubinstein, Chief Hope Officer. “In particular, for patients who travel by airline to reach specialized health care appointments far from home, out-of-pocket expenses can exceed $2,000 per trip. This is unaffordable for many individuals and represents an ongoing and material barrier to equitable access to health care.”

Founded as a registered charity in 1986, Hope Air provides an essential and unique service in Ontario supporting the medical travel needs of people living in rural, remote and under-served communities. In 2023, Hope Air provided over 3,300 travel arrangements for over 900 patients and their escorts, an increase of 165 per cent over the previous year. Hope Air offers free medical travel programs including airline, hotel, ground transportation and meals in over 75 communities across Ontario including Thunder Bay, Hearst, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, Kapuskasing, Hearst and Marathon, among many others.

On June 7th, communities across Northern Ontario will recognize the essential nature of the healthcare programs delivered by Hope Air through the proclamation of Hope Air Day. These events culminate in a live concert in Timmins, Ontario, featuring country music star Cory Marks. For more information on Hope Air Day, please visit

Hope Air
  • Hope Air has provided over 15,000 travel arrangements to patients in Ontario over the past 10 years
  • Hope Air supports patients for all health conditions recognized by the province, including cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, transplants, respiratory, surgeries and a wide range of pediatric medical conditions.
  • 25 per cent of Hope Air’s patients are children. Northern Ontario’s child poverty rate is well above the national average.
  • Hope Air supports patients in demonstrated financial need who require financial support to travel long distances for medical diagnosis and treatment. The average Hope Air patient has a gross household income of $45,000 or less.
  • Hope Air works across 75 communities in Northern Ontario, including many rural, remote and under-served areas.
  • Equitable access to health care is directly related to life expectancy. Individuals living in Northern Ontario experience significant challenges in accessing healthcare and are more likely to delay seeking treatment, worsening their health outcomes. Delays in accessing treatment are associated with significantly worse survival rates and shorter life expectancies than others in the province.
  • The expenses paid by a patient to travel for medical care, requiring treatment or surgery for cancer, cardiac, organ transplant, orthopedic and other conditions can exceed $2,000 per visit.
  • Hope Air air travel programs are provided through commercial airline services such as WestJet, Porter and Air Canada. This is supplemented through the Hope Air volunteer pilot program comprised of certified pilots flying small aircraft into remote areas of the province.
CAA Club Group of Companies
CCG has been a longtime supporter of Hope Air and has assisted in providing thousands of flights to patients in need. 

Survey Methodology
An online survey of the general population in Ontario 18+ years old was conducted in March 2024. Total sample n= 1,511. Based on the sample size and the confidence level (95 per cent), the margin of error for this study was +/- 2 per cent.

We acknowledge that we live and work on the unceded, traditional territories of many Indigenous peoples. We are grateful for the privilege of being on lands that these peoples have nurtured since time immemorial.