"We believe the First Step to getting health care
is the ability to get to the health care provider."
First Step’s mission is to support access to health care by providing travel assistance to people living on the northern tip of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula (NTNNP) who need financial help. To carry out its mission, First Step pays part of community members' medical travel expenses such as gasoline, airfare, meals, lodging and other expenses related to medical travel. The NTNNP includes people living in and around the communities of Goose Cove, St. Anthony, St. Anthony Bight, St. Carols, Great Brehat, Cook’s Harbour, Wild Bight, North Boat Harbour, Raleigh, Ship Cove, St. Lunaire-Griquet, Gunner’s Cove, Quirpon, Noddy Bay, Hay Cove, Straitsview, and L’Anse aux Meadows.
First Step is grounded in the belief that lack of resources should never obstruct access to necessary medical care.
The NTNNP is a geographically isolated part of the Newfoundland Labrador (NL) province. It is home to approximately 4,000 people. Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) provides primary and secondary health care to the area via a regional referral hospital in St. Anthony. Unfortunately, LGH's mandate does not allow it to provide tertiary care to the people of the NTNNP.
Because LGH's mandate limits it to primary and secondary care, people from the NTNNP often must travel to St. John’s (12-hour drive), Corner Brook (six hour drive), or outside NL to obtain necessary medical care. This travel is especially true for long term care for diseases such as cancer and major surgeries. Travel for medical care can last anywhere from a couple of days to weeks or months. Often patients (and their family) must make multiple trips in a single year.
Medical care travel from the NTNNP is an expensive proposition (e.g. car expenses, airfare, lodging, meals, incidental costs, lost wages, et. al.). These expenses can and frequently do exceed several thousand dollars for a single trip. This cost burden falls most heavily on those who can least afford it. It is not unusual to see some people from NTNNP forced to make the hard decision of whether to seek medical care or provide for their basic needs of shelter and food.
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To provide the necessary travel assistance, First Step raises funds through a variety of events as well as direct solicitation. Fund raising activities include galas, concerts, craft fairs, bake sales, athletic events, meals/coffees/teas, and games. First Step uses all money it raises to help only those in the NTNNP.
Mark and Linda Wilkoff, who live in St. Lunaire-Griquet NL, created First Step in 2017 because they believe that the lack of resources should never obstruct access to necessary medical care. The Wilkoffs and the First Step Board of Directors (Kier Knudsen, Godfrey Mitchelmore, Michelle Shears-Rumbolt, George Smith, and Brenda Whyatt) work together with a host of volunteers, businesses, civic organizations, and care providers to raise money and provide travel assistance to NTNNP residents in need.
Since First Step was created pursuant to the Canadian Income Tax Act and the Charities Registration Act, it is an official Canadian registered charity and will issue donation receipts.