Hospital van service makes trips to appointments possible

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By Calen McKinney

They call it a lifesaver, because it literally takes them to and from the places they need in order to get treatment to save their lives.

Taylor Regional Hospital began offering a free van transportation service in 2007, when hospital officials realized some patients were having trouble getting to the hospital to receive treatment.

"We always had patients who were having issues getting to our services," Cindy Rose, TRH's director of public relations and hospitality services, said. "There's been a need for a long time."

Some patients had to be at the hospital every day or several days a week, she said, and that created a hardship on them. As a result, the transportation service was born. The goal is simple - to make coming to the hospital easy.

"They wouldn't have to be in anymore discomfort than they already were," she said.

Rose said the hospital provides the service free to those receiving treatment at any of the TRH-affiliated doctor's offices, clinics and care centers.

Many who use the service are receiving treatment at the cancer and wound centers, she said. Others might just not have a ride to their doctor's office.

Rose said the service is also used to help patients get back home after having procedures, should they not feel well after them or not be able to drive back.

"Which helps quite a lot," she said.

Without a taxi service in the community, Rose said, many patients said they just couldn't make the drive to the hospital. Now, six years after the transportation service began, that no longer hinders patients from receiving the treatment and tests they need.

Campbellsville resident Sheila Underwood, who received treatment at the hospital's cancer center, said she wouldn't have been able to receive that treatment without the transportation service.

"I had no transportation," she said. "They picked me up and took me out there."

Underwood said her husband went along for the ride, too, and the drivers were always polite and willing to help.

"I couldn't have gotten there," Underwood said. "It was a lifesaver, matter of fact. You couldn't ask for a nicer person to take you somewhere."

Underwood said she has now finished treatment and has gotten good reports from her doctors so far. She said she hopes others learn about the transportation service and begin to use it.

"I recommend it to anybody who lives in Taylor County," she said.

Campbellsville resident Lois Winfrey, who is receiving treatment at the hospital's rehabilitation center, said she had been using home health services but began going to the center after her doctor said he didn't believe she was getting around as she should.

But she said she didn't know how she would get to the center for her therapy, since she doesn't drive and has no family in the area.

"I had to have a way to get there," Winfrey said.

But at the rehab center, she said, they already had a solution to her problem.

"They would take me," she said. "I've been really happy with the service."

Campbellsville resident Donnie M. Wright, who is getting treatment at the TRH wound center, said he also doesn't drive and couldn't get to the center himself.

"I have no other form of transportation," he said.

So for the past two years, Wright said, he has relied on the TRH transportation service to get him to his appointments.

"It's a wonderful service," he said. "You cannot beat it."

And traveling with the service has allowed Wright to make some new friends along the way.

"The service they provide is second to none," he said. "They go out of their way."

Wright said the drivers are always willing to help people walk to and from their home and into wherever they need to go.

"If you need help out of the chair, right there they area," Wright said. "They'll take you where you need to go."

Rose said the hospital employs two staff members to drive the vans. Jimmey Kessler drives full time and Larry Walters works part time.

She said anyone who isn't eligible for Medicaid can use the service and only needs to talk to hospital staff members to schedule a ride.

Rose said the service doesn't provide transportation in emergency situations and can't accommodate handicapped patients for liability reasons.

She said Kessler and Walters are trained in first aid, should any emergency situations occur while they are transporting a patient.

According to data for the month of July, Kessler and Walters drove 8,289 miles during 266 trips transporting patients. So far this year, Keltner and Walters have driven 37,419 miles.

Of the 266 trips, 226 were in Taylor County. Twenty-five were in Green and 10 were in Adair. Three were in Marion County.

Rose said the service routinely travels to those four counties but has traveled to Casey, Hart, LaRue, Barren and Russell counties on a limited basis.

Of the 266 trips last month, 27 percent were to physicians' offices, 26 percent were to the hospital's rehabilitation center. Sixteen percent were to the cancer center.

Rose said the hospital can't allow volunteers to help operate the transportation service. But those wanting to help the service can donate to help cover its costs.

Several local businesses are fuel sponsors for the service, Rose said, and pay $80 a month to help with gas and maintenance costs.

For the month of July, fuel sponsors were Community Trust Bank, Citizens Bank and Trust Co., Taylor County Bank, TRH's auxiliary volunteers, Dunn Chrysler, Don Franklin in Campbellsville, James Medical Services, Columbia Medical Services, Anthem and Wehr Constructors.

To be a sponsor, call the hospital at 465-3561 and ask for Rose. Rose said she can also schedule transportation, though it's best to do that through doctor's staff members.

And though many businesses chip in on a regular basis, Rose said, the donations don't entirely cover the cost of the service. TRH covers whatever cost isn't paid for with the donations.

"Usually we have to make up some of the difference," she said.

TRH CEO Jane Wheatley said she is appreciative of those who donate to the service.

"We are very proud to offer this service for our community," she said. "We are very fortunate to live in a community that is willing to help those who are in need."

Rose said the hospital hosts a golf scramble each year to raise money to purchase new vans and cover maintenance costs for the transportation service.

The next will be Saturday, Sept. 7, at 1 p.m. at Campbellsville Country Club. Cost is $75 per person or $300 for a team. Registration deadline is Aug. 30.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available for the scramble, ranging from $100, $250 and $500 hole sponsorships to $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 other sponsorships.

Rose said new vans have been purchased for the past few years. As such, she said she isn't sure if money from this year's scramble will be used to purchase a new van or help maintain the current ones.

To register for the golf scramble, call the hospital and ask for Les Chadwick. To be a sponsor of the scramble, call and ask for Debbie Carrico. Registration forms are also available online at www.trhosp.org.

Rose said the hospital has received praise for its transportation service. She said she isn't sure if it's rare for a hospital to offer such a service, but she doesn't know of any others in the area that do.

"There's lots of hospitals that can't offer the service," she said. "Several surveyors have commented how wonderful it is."

If You Go

What: TRH Golf Scramble

When: Saturday, Sept. 7, at 1 p.m.

Where: Campbellsville Country Club

Why: To raise money for the TRH transportation service

Cost: $75 for individuals, $300 for teams

More: Contact Les Chadwick at 465-3561