QHC wants transit talks

Quinte Health Care is calling on municipalities and other organizations to begin a regional discussion on transportation.
Senior communications director Susan Rowe said transportation is “a top concern” among people responding to its recent surveys on restructuring.
“Usually this is about patients who are worried about getting to medical appointments,” Rowe said.
But she said it’s also mentioned by people who want to visit relatives in hospitals, long-term care and hospices outside of their hometowns.
At a meeting Oct. 29 in Belleville, QHC president and chief administrator Mary Clare Egberts asked municipal leaders to help find answers to such questions.
The corporation will announce Nov. 19 how it will cut $11.5 million from next year’s budget. Senior staff have already said it will involve redistributing services between its hospitals in Belleville, Bancroft, Picton and Trenton.
That has prompted concerns about how patients will travel between those centres and their hospitals.
Lack of knowledge about existing services – from municipal to volunteer-based – is part of the problem, Rowe said.
“People don’t know that the services are available or how to access them.”
She said the Hastings and Prince Edward Transportation Solutions website at www.hpetransportation.ca provides some help in connecting people with services.
Rowe said QHC can’t start its own transportation service, nor will staff begin talks on the matter, “but we’re definitely willing to come to the table to find the right solutions.”
She suggested municipalities and operators of other transportation services discuss it.
“It’s something that needs to be examined by everyone who has a stake in this.
“One of the first things they need to do is identify how big of a concern this is.”
Rowe said that could begin with identifying the people most in need of transportation and the natures of their needs.
She added it may be a relatively simple matter of better co-ordination, not expanded service.
Hastings County Warden Rick Phillips said October’s meeting resulted from a discussion between county representatives and those from Belleville.
The meeting ended with municipal leaders, Egberts and the South East Local Health Integration Network agreeing to continue talks.
However, they set no dates and there was no word of who would organize the next meeting.
Phillips said it’s possible the county could organize another meeting and that he would speak to Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher about it. Christopher couldn’t be reached Monday for comment.
The city’s transit manager and planner, Matt Coffey, said any inter-city or regional transit network could begin with wheelchair-accessible services. Some already cross municipal boundaries.
“It’s more of a door-to-door service,” he said, adding that approach gives operators more control.
Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison said he, too, is open to the idea of further talks and would consider being the one to organize another meeting.
“We’re certainly open to improvements,” he said.
But the mayor also said expanding transportation service shouldn’t be a substitute for preserving health services at local hospitals.

Originally posted on communitypress.ca