Highly skilled Canadian physicians are in demand around the world, not only for their training and expertise, but for their compassion and generosity of spirit.
Natural disasters, such as the 2006 South Asian tsunami, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, or last summer's floods in Pakistan, result in enormous medical need.
Voluntourism — a vacation that combines travel with volunteering — holds great appeal for physicians who seek a sense of purpose in connection with their leisure activities.
Travelling to an exotic locale with a combined objective of improving the health and well-being of its people, with time to also experience the traditional elements of travel — arts, culture, geography and history — creates new ways to "give back." This hands-on experiential travel is becoming more prevalent as we transition from the age of just "writing a cheque" to a more participatory form of philanthropy.
A quick check of the Internet will yield dozens of organizations, both non-profit and travel businesses, that organize volunteering vacations to meet the needs of adult singles who prefer the company of fellow voluntourists, or families seeking a memorable shared vacation experience.
Well organized voluntourism initiatives offer great benefit where healing, helping hands are needed. When voluntourism is thoughtfully planned and managed, you can maximize vacation time by helping the host country and gaining personal reward in the process.
When considering a voluntourism vacation, "well organized and thoughtfully planned" is the operative phrase. It is imperative to truly understand the complexity of making your experience safe and successful.
Three important things to consider
Part of your own risk management process is to have reliable, adequate extended health protection in place in the event of injury or illness while outside Canada.
The government-funded OMA Priority Insurance Program (OPIP) is available to all eligible practicing physicians in Ontario.* For newly licensed physicians, you can apply with no medical underwriting required, within 90 days of receiving your notification of eligibility. Physicians applying for OPIP after 90 days are still eligible, with medical underwriting.
An annual fee of only $50 for OPIP buys you peace of mind before, during, and after travel — not to mention many other comprehensive health benefits. Emergency Out-of-Province/Country Travel Medical insurance — up to $1 million of protection per insured person for the first 90 days of travel if you are under age 70, and for the first 30 days of travel if you are age 70 or older, with no deductible, no health questions, and no pre-existing exclusions — is all part of the two OPIP options that include Extended Health Care insurance (EHC).
Another option for out-of-country protection is through the OMA's Group EHC (medical underwriting required, and applicants must be under age 79). This plan provides health coverage that is similar to OPIP for you and your family while travelling outside the country.
If you are already enrolled in OPIP or EHC and are considering a voluntourism vacation, or any other out-of- country travel, you have one less thing to worry about.
Leave the world a better place — but don't leave home without the right insurance protection!