During the current pandemic situation, many seniors still need to see their doctor or a specialist to deal with particular medical needs. For many who are unable to drive themselves to their appointments, —stock photo Carefor Transportation Services relies on funding from the Ministry of Health and donations to offset the cost of payroll, vehicle maintenance, fuel, and more to continue to provide this essential service to the com- munity. Carefor Eastern Counties also relies on community support so drivers like Yves can continue to provide much-needed trans- portation to clients at an affordable rate. “It’s the tip of the iceberg of the actual cost of what the client is really paying,” Stevenson said.

Going to see the doctor for an annual check up is an important preventative measure for maintaining health as people age. But getting to and from these appointments may seem like a luxury to some. Many seniors within Eastern Ontario’s communities, including Hawkesbury, travel more than an hour in each direction for essential medical care. Taxi fares from Hawkesbury to the Ottawa Hospital are well over $170 per direction, before adding in waiting time. If someone needs to make more than one trip per month for essential appointments, these costs add up making it near impossible to continue to receive essential care. This past year, Carefor Eastern Counties has made over 25,900 drives to medical appointments, servicing over 1,600 people within the region. These medical appointments range from everything, including seeing a family doctor to receiving life-changing dialysis, cancer treatments, and more. Transportation fees have been made more affordable, charging $0.42-$0.47 per kilometre versus other for-profit services. However, in many cases, these fees can still be taxing to passengers depending on their frequency of use. Yves Deschamps is a Carefor Eastern Counties driver and has been for some time, providing essential transportation services to the Hawkesbury area. Over the past five years, Yves has gotten to know many of the people who receive ongoing transportation services. “I enjoy what I do, and the people I can help,” Deschamps said. “It’s a part of me.” Deschamps has experienced first-hand some of the tough decisions his clients have had to make over the years, especially when they have had reoccurring medical appointments in Ottawa. “For someone travelling from Rockland to Ottawa, the fees usually around $30 per trip,” he said. “However, if you start travelling from Hawkesbury, that fee jumps to over $80 per trip. If you need to go to the eye doctor three or four times a month because you have cataracts, you can’t afford it.” Although the number of drives has dropped over the past couple months, family practitioners and non-emergent surgeries are being re-booked. Many seniors are still feeling the finan- cial ripple effect of the pandemic and are more likely facing financial hardships for the foreseeable future. “The unique aspect we have in Eastern Counties,” said Greg Stevenson, Carefor transportation services supervisor, “is people in the rural cities and towns going into Ottawa. However, for those living in Ottawa, there’s public transit, there’s taxis – it’s a much shorter range of distance from the client’s home to their doctor or to the hospital, where as in the Eastern Counties it’s much greater.” Stevenson’s team tries to make essential transportation as accessible as possible. “A driver could conceivably be waiting for several hours and the time is not being charged to the client,” Stevenson said. “There is no wait time charge. It’s strictly a kilometre charge.”

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