Six years ago, people without transportation found it difficult to get to the doctor’s office or hospital for medical appointments. Then came Care-Van, a non-profit service that provides transportation for people in local communities to their health care providers, thanks to donations from a group of doctors, nurses, and others unrelated to the medical field.
Care-Van has seen an increase in demand by those who have no other way to get to and from their medical appointments, according to Dr. Erol D. Riza, one of the people who helped establish the service.
Donations from the medical staff at St. Charles Mercy Hospital, small businesses and individuals financially supported the service. Last year, the program got a boost in the arm with a $30,000 grant from the United Way of Greater Toledo.
“All these different groups joined to help people who have no other way to get to their appointments,” said Riza. It particularly helps people on a limited income, he said.
“When people get checks from Medicare, what will they spend it for, a taxi cab, food, or a run to the doctor’s? At least we are helping them in that way,” he said.
The service, provided weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free, though it accepts voluntary donations of up to $5 from users.
“No one charges a single penny. Everything is free,” said Riza.
Funds for the service help pay for the salaries of four Care-Van’s drivers, auto repair and gas. The City of Oregon funds insurance for the van, which sits 8-10 people.
Demand for the service has increased by over 30 percent in 2009, said Riza.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the economy, but the demand rose 32 percent. People need help and we have to give them help,” he said.
“United Way has been helping us. Before then, we used just personal and private donations. Now our challenge is to be able to meet increased demand,” he said.
The service used to have two vans, one with a wheelchair lift, he said. But the latter was discontinued because of its age. Now, Riza is hoping to raise enough funds to buy a new van with a wheelchair lift to provide easier access to the disabled.
“We’re looking for someone to help us so we can get one that will have a wheelchair lift. We have blind people, amputees, and others who need the lift,” he said.
For more information on the Care-Van, call 419-696-7404.