Those with dialysis and cancer treatments are forced to leave their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
But how exactly can those patients get to their appointments if they don’t have their own transportation?
Caroline Johnson, development director for Williamsburg Faith in Action, wrote in an email the nonprofit is not currently offering medical transportation.
“We’re currently working to help connect our current clients with Peninsula Agency on Aging’s RIDES program, or if necessary, utilizing grant funds to get them set up with a different service,” she wrote. “Though we typically provide medical transportation to seniors over 60, to protect our volunteers and seniors, we’ve stopped providing that for now and don’t want to confuse those who may be needing it.”
Peninsula Agency on Aging’s RIDES program provides transportation to non-emergency medical appointments for seniors 60 years and older.
“We are still operating of course, the numbers have dropped quite a bit,” said Gerald Patesel, vice president of community services who also manages the nonprofit’s transportation program. “The clients aren’t going out to appointments a lot.”
Most of their appointments are for people with dialysis and regular doctor’s appointments but have just recently started to increase due to the easing of elective surgeries restrictions, Patesel said.
The clients are pre-screened the day before with CDC recommended questions are not temperature tested. The drivers, on the other hand, are also pre-screened with the same CDC questions and are temperature tested before coming into work.
All of the drivers have masks and wear gloves and clean the van in-between clients.
“Our drivers have done a great job,” he said. “As you can imagine, most of them are retired, older individuals and they continue to be out there [around] the public.”
PAA was supposed to launch Access Williamsburg, a transportation center where seniors and people with disabilities can call one number to get a ride instead of being referred to another resource or having to call another number.
But Patesel said they had to postpone it.
“We were hoping to launch in April but we kind of postponed it until July,” he said. “It’s not a good time.”
The program is a partnership between the nonprofit and WATA, he said, and once the program is launched, other organizations will join, too.
Patesel said the launch postponement was a business decision among the partners to delay it until “everything is better.”
“The number of appointments are dropping off to hardly anything,” he said. “The demand wasn’t really there, hopefully will launch when everyone is feeling good and happy, that kind of thing.”
But what about people who are not seniors? Is there a transportation service they can use?
Patesel said WATA offers paratransit service for disabled person 18 years and older but the other organizations in the area are either for seniors or the disabled.
Those not older or disabled needing transportation to medical appointments can use WATA.
“I believe almost everyone else is going to be a paid service,” he said.
For those who can afford a paid transportation service, Colonial Transit is another option.
“Individuals who have cancer, who still need to obtain cancer treatments that’s our main client base right now,” said Ryan Bonney, owner of the transportation company. “Eye surgeries too, but right now it’s mainly been individuals who are seeking cancer treatments or dialysis.”
He said ridership is below average and the company’s service area and fees remain the same.
But the way the company has approached clients has changed.
“We clean their wheelchair before they enter the van,” he said. “I’m fully masked the entire time.”
Disinfecting the van is another precaution.
“I do have backup if I ever to were to ever get exposed. Cindy Walker, who owns Williamsburg Gymnastics was kind enough to offer her RV,” he said.
Bonney said he knows some medical transportation companies had to shut down due to personal protective equipment shortages or they themselves were physically compromised.
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