[Appears as originally Published in The Pulse, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry BMSc Newsletter | April 2019]

Article by Crystal Mackay

A large population of Canadians hesitate when picking up the phone to call 911 in a medical emergency because they aren’t sure how they are going to pay the ambulance fee.

Working as a volunteer first responder for St. John’s Ambulance, BMSc student Kevin Zhou witnessed this first hand in London, Ontario and committed to doing something to help.

In Ontario, OHIP-covered individuals are required to pay a co-payment fee of $45 for an ambulance trip, and those who don’t hold a valid health card or who aren’t covered under OHIP are required to pay the full amount of the trip out of pocket, which costs $240.

“I started Accessible Medics with the mission that no medical services should be forgone due to financial insecurity,” said Zhou. Through Accessible Medics, Zhou and classmates Geetika Gupta and Tanika Mahabir provide free emergency health insurance and community care kits to low-income populations in the city.

The Public EMS Insurance Program (PEIP) is a free service offered through Accessible Medics that allows registered individuals to access funds for EMS services upon submission of a claim. “Despite the fundamental role that EMS plays in the lives of people, not everyone has equal access to life-saving care under our provincial health plan,” said Zhou.

Funded in part by the United Way and London Life Youth United, the group also fundraises throughout the year, and has raised more than $4,500 to fund their programs. They also organize community outreach initiatives to help educate underserviced communities in London about access to health care in collaboration with organizations like the London Intercommunity Health Centre and the Dental Outreach Community Service (DOCS) program run through Schulich Dentistry.

Part of their 2019 outreach project involves providing Community Care Kits, which contain essential first aid supplies, to underserved populations. The Kits include things such as antiseptic wipes, a community resource brochure, medical tape and gauze, bandages and an ice pack. The group aims to distribute 100 Care Kits this year.

They are hoping to enlist more student volunteers next year who are interested in serving as advocates for equal access to health care, and hope to expand the project beyond the London community by establishing other chapters of Accessible Medics in universities across Canada.

“The program not only provides equal access to emergency health care for individuals with no other means of requesting EMS, but it also results in stronger relationships between students and health agencies serving our community,” said Zhou. “We want to thank Entripy Custom Clothing for generously sponsoring the custom-printed bags and jackets used in the outreach project. We also express our gratitude to the many student volunteers who donated their time to make the project a success.”

[Appears as originally Published in The Pulse, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry BMSc Newsletter | April 2019]

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