Clearwater’s Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP) depot has been closed, forcing clients of the service to travel to Kamloops or 100 Mile House for the closest alternate location.
A sign hung on the door at the 85 Clearwater Station Rd. location said as of June 24, PG Surg-Med will be providing services in Clearwater for Interior Health Authority referrals.
“I have no idea (what this will mean) for people who don’t have anyone to help them to get this kind of equipment before surgery or don’t have the funds to drive to Kamloops,” said Barb Hall, former volunteer team lead at the Clearwater location.
“It’s really sad. I feel really bad about it.”
Hall volunteered with the HELP depot for 10 years and was one of seven volunteers who helped out with the service.
As the name suggests, the HELP program provided health equipment by loaning it out to patients with advanced short-term loans of advanced equipment like hospital beds and patient lifts as well as long-term loans for those with long-term illness who don’t have the money needed to buy or rent medical equipment.
“If somebody goes for surgery they often need five or six pieces of expensive equipment, or somebody who happens to be at home and needs a commode and there was no fee for the rental, it was all by donation,” Hall said.
“It’s just a sad day for the community. Think of all the seniors, we’re 55 per cent seniors in this community and many of them are needing surgery and now they’ll have to go to Kamloops; it was a great thing they did, having it here as long as they did.”
Jenn Houtby, manager of communications for Red Cross B.C. and Yukon, said the reason for closing the Clearwater location is because the organization recently signed what’s called the Medical Equipment Provision Program agreement with the province of B.C. and that saw a need to adjust operational requirements.
“It was an operational decision and we now have 28 locations throughout the Interior,” said Houtby.
“There isn’t a significant change in service, but what we have identified is most individuals, particularly those who used the Clearwater location, would be receiving their surgery, generally speaking, in Kamloops and perhaps Vernon, and in most cases those folks actually pick up equipment prior to leaving post surgery, for example.”
Regarding those who need HELP services before surgery, Houtby said, “That may be the case, I couldn’t speak to any individual circumstances, but generally speaking even if someone is awaiting surgery or maybe is ill, if they were from a small community they would very likely be receiving treatment in a larger centre; we do have more than 28 locations in the Interior Health Region so there are lots of opportunities for folks to seek that equipment from other locations if needed.”