While many cities, particularly the larger metro areas, have created modern public transportation networks like bus routes, trains and subways, smaller cities and rural areas lack even the most basic transportation systems. Not to mention that even if a city does have bus routes, for example, there’s no guarantee that it will be running 24-7.
This puts a huge portion of the population at a major disadvantage. Unfortunately, many of the users of public transit are low-income, or do not have access to a mobility van. Worse yet, those with medical problems or disabilities are not able to drive even if they could afford to have their own transportation.
Keeping up with medical appointments
Often it’s the people who are impacted the most those who rely on public transit but have disabilities – find that they’re unable to keep their medical appointments simply because they can’t get to their doctor’s office and the result is that they have to forgo their medical care.
Sadly, man people are using 9-1-1 to call an ambulance under the pretext of an emergency just to get to the hospital to be seen by a physician. It’s becoming the “9-1-1 taxi service,” and it’s costing municipalities a lot of money.
In a country that has some of the best medical care and treatment available, it’s a shame that some people are unable to get to that care because of limited access to transportation. One study of low-income patients showed that the suburban population who relied on bus service was twice as likely to miss their medical appointments as patients who drove cars.
Fortunately for some patients, health-care providers and hospitals in some cities are now utilizing community health workers to help coordinate transportation using mobility van conversions for patients to see their physicians. But it’s not available in all areas and not all providers have access to these types of workers.
In other areas, there are volunteer drivers who take disabled patients to doctor’s appointments. They often use handicap-accessible vans, which are funded by the federal government. But because some patients are usually debilitated or frail, the volunteer drivers can only take one patient at a time and must stay with them until they’re appointment is concluded and they’re safely back home. But finding volunteer drivers is difficult.
Another option in many areas is non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) that is covered by Medicaid, but eligibility and the number of visits covered vary by state. Some entities operate wheelchair van transportation for the disabled, like Paratransit, which offers supplemental service to a fixed bus route. Some of these operate on a fixed route, while others offer “on-demand” service to users.
Thanks to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this service is required for people who aren’t able to use the public bus system and is rapidly becoming available in more and more locations. But access may be limited to certain geographic areas which means individuals with special needs residing in outlying areas may have limited transportation options.
There are some shared ride services starting to offer wheelchair-accessible vans in some cities. The vans are equipped with wheelchair ramps or lifts and rides can be scheduled using special smartphone apps. Entrepreneurs and other private firms are starting their own transportation network around the country offering wheelchair van service for those in need. Also, some hospitals and health care clinics have begun using multi-passenger conversion vans to provide complimentary wheelchair accessible transportation to the clinic or doctor’s office.
Solving the transport problem
As you can see, there are certain mechanisms in place that can help ensure disabled patients can get to their medical appointments, but a lot more still needs to be done. Medical appointments aren’t the only need of disabled individuals. Many want to shop for themselves, visit friends & family and want to be able to go wherever they desire and do whatever ambulatory people can do. To make that happen, many additional transportation services will need to be added, especially in smaller cities or rural areas. Using a combination of both public and private services, the transportation problem can be solved.