Shortage of volunteer drivers impacting cancer patients in B.C.’s Southern Interior – Okanagan | Canadian

The Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins Centre in Kelowna is one of BC Cancer’s six regional care centres.

It treats patients from the Boundary, Cariboo, Kootenay, Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson regions of British Columbia.

One service they provide is a shuttle program, which transports patients from Kamloops, Vernon, Penticton, Oliver and the smaller communities in between to their appointments in Kelowna.

However, a shortage in volunteer drivers for ‘Wheels of Hope’ is having a direct impact on its clients.

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“Even like today, I didn’t have a ride back to Kamloops, presumably because of the lack of drivers,” said 82-year-old Doug Parker. “My wife had to drive down to Kelowna and pick me up and bring me back.”

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According to the Wheels of Hope head of volunteer recruitment, the shortage was first felt at the start of the pandemic. Despite a few recent returnees, there is still a need for more volunteers.

“We’re very low on volunteers,” explained Wheels of Hope head of volunteer recruitment Mark Kahan.

“If there is anyone out there that likes to drive and enjoys helping people that can spare a weekday or half a day or even a few days a month on an ongoing basis, we could really use your help.”

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Kahan added that the service is critical for so many reasons.

“For some cancer patients, they shouldn’t be driving a vehicle after some of their treatments,” described Kahan.

“They may not have a vehicle or driver’s licence, and some don’t even have any friends or family members that are available or have a car. A cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect them, it can affect their whole family.”

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Not having a safe ride to and from an appointment can also have devastating impacts on the patient and their family.

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“The stress of trying to find transportation can just be overwhelming and some just give up,” Kahan expressed.

“So, they just don’t go to their treatment because they just can’t find a way to get there.”

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For anyone looking to make a difference in their community and in the lives of others, there are only a few requirements.

  • Valid driver’s licence with three or less demerits.
  • Double vaccinated.
  • Must wear a mask.
  • Willing to provide a criminal background check.

Wheels of Hope also provides its drivers with a van, but you can use your own vehicle if you choose, and the organization will either reimburse your mileage or write you a tax receipt.

To sign up, click here.

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