George Garrett (in car) and the late John MacInnes. Together with Garth Pinton, they founded the VCDS when the Canadian Cancer Society cancelled a program that gets cancer patients to their medical appointments. File photo

Growing demand for cancer drivers service in Lower Mainland

New service was created when cancer society cancelled program to get patients to appointments

The number of cancer patients transported by the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (VCDS) in the Lower Mainland has increased substantially, going from an average of 300 trips a month in 2016 to more than 500 last year.

Figures released by the VCDS following their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March show that the volunteer drivers made a total of 6,300 trips to and from medical appointments last year.

They racked up 363,000 kilometres on the road.

The VCDS was created as an emergency replacement by former CKNW reporter George Garrett, Garth Pinton and the late John MacInnes after the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) cancelled its Volunteer Driver Program 2015 as a cost-saving measure after almost a quarter-century.

When the CCS cancelled its volunteer drivers program, its press release said the decision was based on “factors such as similar government-funded driving programs, decreasing volunteers and ridership as well as increasing operating costs.”

Since its inception, the VCDS has grown to 148 drivers and seven dispatchers who provide service to Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey, White Rock, Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Port Moody, the North Shore, Delta and part of New Westminster (Service to other communities in the Lower Mainland is offered by the Freemason’s Cancer Car Program).

One of the drivers, Abbotsford resident Pauline Buck, who also serves as the organization’s volunteer Director of Communications, was elected to the VCDS 10-person Board of Directors for a 2-year term at the AGM.

“I’m glad that I can help provide cancer patients with some peace of mind by solving their transportation needs in this way,” Buck said.

“Modern medications and therapies are helping ensure a positive prognosis for many cancer patients, but their hope for a cure or period of remission often depends on their ability to actually get to the cancer treatments their oncologists have prescribed … for many, family and friends are not able to help.”

READ MORE: Appeal for cancer patient drivers gets rapid response in the Langleys

The VCDS is a registered charity, with funding coming from a variety of municipal and charitable sources.

Dispatchers work from home, and volunteers drive one to three times a week. Patients call the number, leave information with their address and time of appointment, and they get a call back within 24 hours with info on the driver.

Drivers are reimbursed 41 cents per kilometre. Some choose to donate a portion back.

READ MORE: Volunteers driven to help cancer patients

Drivers must provide proof of insurance, a reference, their ICBC driving record, and pass a criminal record check.

To schedule a ride, once a patient has received their referral and knows the dates and times of upcoming appointments, they, a family member or a caregiver can call the dispatch office at 604-515-5400.

The caller will be greeted by an automated attendant and asked for their name, address, phone number and the date and location of their appointment.

They will be contacted via phone by their designated volunteer driver to introduce him/herself, confirm they appointment, and arrange a pickup time.

It’s a round-trip, the driver will wait at the appointment location and return the patient home immediately afterward.

The society offers free transportation to patients throughout diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. A caregiver may accompany a patient and most drivers can accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.

For more information about VCDS, to volunteer, or to donate, visit www.volunteercancerdrivers.ca.



dan.ferguson@langleytimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants earn a 3-1 victory over Everett in season-opener in Langley

Langley’s major junior hockey team opened the season at home with a victory over the Silvertips.

Abbotsford Friday Night Lights

Recaps of all three senior varsity football team games

City should aim for greener buildings: Blue

Abbotsford council pushes for progress after staff balks at adopting energy-efficient standards

‘Serious incident’ sends Abbotsford area worker to hospital

Few details are currently available, but WorkSafeBC says it is investigating

Raj Patara looks to bring ‘positive change’ to Abbotsford school board

Patara says focus should be on transparency, communication and accountability in school district

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read