Fears older and vulnerable people will lose access to health care when shuttle service closes

Ngaire Cropp, pictured in 2015, relies on the Red Cross shuttle to access medical appointments in Greymouth - 102 miles from his Westport home - each month.

Sarah-Jane O’Connor / Tips

Ngaire Cropp, pictured in 2015, relies on the Red Cross shuttle to access medical appointments in Greymouth – 102 miles from his Westport home – each month.

The closure of the Red Cross community transport shuttle will leave vulnerable people isolated and without access to decent health care, patient advocates fear.

Ngaire Cropp of Westport, 89, has relied on the free service to get to essential doctor’s appointments each month for the past six years.

But Buller Red Cross president Carole Keoghan said the national organization has asked the local branch to stop its service within the next year.

The Red Cross said earlier it was ending its free shuttle services across the country, not just the west coast, so it could refocus its resources to areas where they could have a “greater impact”. Most regions had already lost their shuttles.

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“I’m afraid the service will end,” Cropp said.

“The community is in desperate need of it, and I don’t think they realize how much the people here depend on it.

For many Westport seniors, the shuttle was the only affordable way to access the area’s main hospital in Greymouth, 102 kilometers away.

Cropp said without the shuttle she would have to travel on the intercity bus which would be more expensive and require her to stay overnight in Greymouth whenever she has a date.

The West Coast District Health Board recently asked the area council to provide financial support for a public transport service between Greymouth and Westport, but nothing had come of the request yet.

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A spokesperson for the Red Cross said the shuttle service would not stop until it was replaced with a similar service from another agency.

“We care about the people we are currently helping.

“We are working with an interested party to transfer the service… with minimal impact on those who have used it.”

St John had filled the void left by the Red Cross in many other parts of New Zealand, but its sanitary shuttle service was not available in Christchurch or Westport.

At its peak, the Red Cross shuttle helped 20,000 people across the country access medical appointments each year, including around 5,000 in Christchurch.

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said the transport was a

Stacy Squires / Stuff

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said transport was a “real barrier” to accessing healthcare.

The Red Cross closed its service in Christchurch 18 months ago.

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said the lack of free transport options had taken its toll, especially for people with reduced mobility.

“Transportation is a major problem for some older people, and there is now a real barrier to accessing… health care but also social services and social interactions.

“We’ve definitely had people calling so they couldn’t make it to appointments. ”

Free medical transport services have also been a lifeline for some participants in Ōtautahi Creative Spaces, a wellness initiative supporting people with mental health needs.

Otautahi Creative Spaces director Kim Morton said some people had been unable to access the service since the Red Cross sanitary shuttle closed.

Provided

Otautahi Creative Spaces director Kim Morton said some people had been unable to access the service since the Red Cross sanitary shuttle closed.

Director Kim Morton said the shutdown of the service isolated those who depend on it.

“For many of our participants, public transport is not an option.

“Many of the people we support are so anxious to be in public spaces that they cannot take buses. ”

Morton said the Red Cross shuttle often made the difference between someone being able to come to the studio or not.

As a result, the initiative lost participants, she said.

“It is often more difficult for us, with the privilege of traveling, to understand the importance of service for those who are isolated.

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