Help for help.
That’s the quest for the Courtenay office of the Canadian Red Cross, particularly its short-term health equipment loan division.
The office provides a range of advance equipment such as hospital beds, crutches, wheelchairs and more to alleviate the pressures that come along with injury or illness.
It also helps to assist seniors with mobility issues, allows people to return home from hospital earlier and supports those in palliative care who wish to spend their final days in the comfort of their own home.
But due to a lack of volunteers, the impact of reduced hours will begin to affect service, says volunteer Bruce Walkey.
“The amount of equipment that goes out is incredible,” he explained, from the Puntledge Road office. “The amount of people who come through our door who are so thankful (we’re here) is amazing.”
Once a referral from a health care professional is obtained, a client can visit the office Monday to Friday to receive the equipment they need on loan for no charge for up to three months of use (extensions can be made).
Donations are accepted, however.
“It fills a huge need. People from all walks of life use our service, from people coming out of surgery for knees, hips and needing crutches, to seniors who need walkers.”
Last week, Walkey admitted a lack of volunteers put the office “almost at a stage where we can’t afford to keep it open from 9 to 4.”
Shortly afterwards, Walkey got word from the organization beginning Oct. 2, hours will be reduced to 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday.
“It will frustrate a lot of (people),” he notes. “People will get discharged from the hospital at noon, and it won’t give them a lot of time to come here and pick up their equipment, so they might have to wait a day or so.”
According to the Canadian Red Cross, in 2015, the Courtenay office loaned 5,887 pieces of equipment to 2,926 clients.
Provincially, the oganization loaned 178,4000 pieces of equipment and served 103,500 clients, up about 30 per cent in both loans and clients in B.C. since 2011-2012.
Team lead of volunteers and former nurse Mercia Goodchild says it’s the smiles of the faces of clients and the “great satisfaction” she gets from helping out that keeps her volunteering with the agency.
She said there is “a desperate need” for additional help, particularly after the organization lost six volunteers.
To work at the front counter, Goodchild says only basic computer skills and an enjoyment for working with the public is required.
Other volunteer positions are available, adds Walkey, such as working on medical equipment. Some mechanical skills are needed, but there are volunteers trained and ready to provide support.
For more information on the Canadian Red Cross medical equipment short-term loan program or to volunteer, email BCYvolunteering@redcross.ca or visit redcross.ca.