I lived on the Sunshine Coast for two years before a neighbour told me about the Travel Assistance Program. She explained that the provincial government would pay my ferry fare when I went to a specialist medical appointment in Vancouver. That was great news. Any kind of ferry subsidy would help with the travel costs that make life in our lovely community seem less than ideal.

But I soon found out that I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t known about TAP. My doctor didn’t know about it either. Because of the near impossibility of getting a family doctor on the Coast, after moving to the Coast I had continued seeing a GP in Vancouver. I learned that a Vancouver doctor is unlikely to have TAP forms on hand or even know they exist. Why would they? Their patients, almost all Vancouverites, don’t need to take a ferry to see a specialist. However, your family doctor, upon sending you to a specialist, is supposed to give you a little pink TAP form that B.C. Ferries accepts in lieu of the fare.

I explained the situation to my doctor, who like most busy GPs passed the problem along to her staff. Her two medical office assistants were busy as well, fielding too many patients in a crowded waiting room. They didn’t know about TAP forms and had no time to try to obtain them. I went away without the form.

I then called the government’s TAP office. The woman on the line pleasantly explained that I could walk into a medical clinic and ask for the form. I tried that. On the way home I stopped at a medical clinic in West Vancouver. They refused to give me the form because I wasn’t their patient.

Back on the Coast, the Gibsons Medical Clinic did fill out and give me the form but warned that I couldn’t depend on them to do so in the future. They said the government audits the forms, which a doctor must sign for their patients, not other doctor’s patients. So I was caught in a Catch-22. Because I couldn’t get a family doctor here, I had to go to Vancouver to get a form that would allow me to go to Vancouver. But I couldn’t get the form there, so I had to go back to the Coast to get a form that would take me to the Coast. And the clinic on the Coast wasn’t supposed to give me the form.

For now, I guess, I’ll stay away from doctors.