BY FIONA MACPHERSON
When I moved to the communications department of Northern Health, I was very excited to take on the Northern Health Connections (NHC) program as part of my portfolio. If you’re not familiar with NHC, it’s Northern Health’s bus transportation service for medical appointments: if you have a medical appointment that requires you to travel to Vancouver but you live in Dawson Creek, you’re able to ride a NHC shuttle to and fro. It’s safe, comfy, and very affordable. I had heard all about this service, but what better way to find out what it’s all about than taking the bus myself! So, in the interest of discovery, I recently rode the bus for the first time: Prince George to Smithers, let’s go!
My trip began at a very convenient spot – the University Hospital of Northern BC entrance, where I was greeted by a cheerful driver named Arlene. Arlene was very helpful and extremely courteous. I took my seat in row 2, which I jokingly called “business class,” because trust me, that will be the closest I come to travelling business class!
On this trip, there were around 18 people on the bus, two of which were seniors. Did you know that if you’re 60 or older, you are able to take the bus without a medical referral? If you’re planning a trip and unsure of who can ride, check out our passenger eligibility requirements.
We promptly left the hospital at 8:02 am heading west. It was pretty crazy to see a shuttle depart relatively on time, but I could tell it was important to the driver to stay on schedule, which is a great feeling as a passenger. If you do use NHC in the future, make sure you arrive at least 15-20 minutes early so the bus can leave at the scheduled time. We hate to see an unfilled seat!
Now, I’ve spent my fair share of time on buses. I have two boys that play hockey, so my husband and I take turns riding the bus with them. Let me tell you, this was nothing like riding the hockey bus! First of all, the noise level on a hockey bus is so loud you can barely hear yourself think. The only noise on this Connections bus was the adorable little seven-year-old that had us all watching Ella Enchanted. What a lovely change of pace, and more importantly, noise level, from the hockey trips I’m so used to!
We drove right through Vanderhoof; no pickups there! Next stop: Fraser Lake. A quick five minute stop here to drop off Red Cross Equipment, a great perk that NHC offers. I also loved the fact that the buses have tray tables and seatbelts. In this day and age, not too many buses have these extra features. It makes a big difference for comfort in the long run!
We then hit our first real stop – Burns Lake. Time to visit the convenience store for snacks, get a bathroom break, or grab a quick lunch. Within 10 minutes, everyone was back on the bus, happy and full, which proved to me this little break was just the right amount of time.
Now, back on the road, we were headed to Smithers! Everyone with full bellies, it was again fairly quiet on the bus. We made a quick stop in Telkwa to drop off two passengers. Then, 10 minutes out of Smithers, our patient, courteous driver offered to drop me off at my hotel instead of making me walk the 20 minute trek from the hospital. Wow, I was so impressed! I gave Arlene a huge thank you and wished her a Merry Christmas!
All in all, the trip went by very fast. There weren’t too many stops, it was very comfortable, and I was able to just sit back and relax. If you have to make a trip for a medical appointment, I’d recommend you try NHC! I would take the bus again in a heartbeat!