Frequent users of the Castlegar and District Community Health Centre are wondering why they all of a sudden have to put down a small deposit to use wheelchairs after years of borrowing them for free.
Fred Salekin said he often visits the health centre with his 91 year-old mother for tests.
“She lives in Rota Villa which isn’t very far away, but she still has to come in a vehicle to the hospital,” he said. “When I drive her up to the hospital entrance, I go into the lobby and grab a wheelchair and we’re set.”
He said usually his visits are simple and he can get in and out quickly, but the last visit there were no wheelchairs to be found.
Instead, he found them locked up requiring a loonie deposit.
“I opted not to do that,” Salekin said. “There were none of the other wheelchairs about so I assume they had been cleaned out of there. She used her walker to access the lab rather than a wheelchair.”
Salekin said it’s not just the inconvenience of bringing a loonie each time he needs to bring his mother to the hospital, but how much Interior Health spent on installing the new system.
“It struck me at the time that which Interior Health and is crying about spending dollars, that something was going on here that needed to be looked at because obviously there was an expenditure there.”
Diane Gagnon, community integrated health services administrator for Interior Health said there indeed was an expenditure – at more than $5,000 a year for stolen wheelchairs.
“Castlegar and District Community Health Centre has been losing up to five wheelchairs a year to theft,” she said. “These wheelchairs are intended for use on site – to get patients to and from their cars and to move about the site. These stolen wheelchairs equate to the loss of thousands of dollars … that could be used for other vital health care equipment.”
She said the new system is meant to be a theft deterrent.
“We have done this to help ensure precious health care resources are not been wasted replacing stolen items. This system also keeps wheelchairs organized and out of the way when they are not in use.”
She added if a patient needs a wheelchair but doesn’t have a loonie, the staff have the ability to unlock one.
But Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said this system is “going in the wrong direction” when it comes to health care in Castlegar.
“My question would be, why would we do that?” he said. “To me, we’re creating a hardship when we don’t need to create a hardship.”
Chernoff said the system is already complicated and he’s not comfortable with seniors having to deal with an added stress while visiting the health centre.
“I think we need to have trust and faith in people,” he said.