STC shutdown leaves cancer patients looking for a ride

Carpe Diem Limo Service applying to take over STC routes

Cancer patients who rely on Saskatchewan Transportation Company services to get to treatment in Regina and Saskatoon will have to find a new ride come June 1.

The province announced on Wednesday it was "winding down" STC, leaving 224 people out of work. Freight and passenger service will cease by the end of May.

Susan Suek travels at least once a month from Loon Lake, in the northwestern part of the province to Saskatoon for cancer treatments.

Suek can drive but said after getting cancer treatments, she usually doesn't feel like driving home afterwards.

"It's so convenient, it just takes the stress out of my trip," Suek said.

She has a medical bus pass, which costs her $68 a month for unlimited travel. Suek said fuel costs and extra accommodations for the person who drives her will make an already stressful trip more costly.

Suek said there are trips when the bus has been fairly empty but she said plenty of return trips are packed with families, seniors and students.

Suek said STC is an "essential service" for people living in small communities. She said routes could be cut but getting rid of STC in its entirety is going too far.

"Let's not cut everything, let's make it more economical," she said.

Cancer society receiving calls

STC's shutdown concerns the Canadian Cancer Society. In 2016, it helped 300 people fighting cancer take the bus to and from their communities and into the city for treatment. It offers a free shuttle to patients from the bus depot to their appointments.

"I think there are a lot of cancer patients worried about what this will mean for them," said Donna Pasiechnik with the Canadian Cancer Society in Regina.

"We do know we have a lot of people from Prince Albert, Yorkton-Melville who have used the STC bus service to come into Regina and Saskatoon. We are concerned and we are going to be watching it closely."

Pasiechnik said her office was receiving calls Thursday morning from people worried about whether they could continue to get to their appointments.

Ministry response

The minister responsible for STC said people will have to find another way to their appointments.

"Only 253 communities are serviced by STC. There's over 500 communities in the province and those people in those other communities, they also have people with cancer that have to make it into the city for treatments and they found other options without much problem," said Minister Joe Hargrave.

"We don't get a lot of calls about that."

STC buses carry much more than passengers. For example, blood and blood products are transported on behalf of Canadian Blood Services.

The blood service said in a statement it will "continue to ensure that hospitals and patients have access to the blood and blood products they need."

Hargrave said the private sector will step up and offer to transport things that STC is currently handling.