The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society (VCDS) needs drivers in the Langley area.
“We’ve lost two long-term drivers (in the region), both from cancer, ironically,” society spokesperson George Garrett said.
A third driver had to stop because the society has set 83 as the maximum age volunteers can take passengers.
Garrett said the society is in particular need of people who have enough time to take cancer patients to and from Vancouver.
“We need drivers willing to do the long trips.”
The society has about 100 drivers, who made nearly 6,000 trips last year in 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).
“That’s a lot of driving,” Garrett said.
Demand for the free service is increasing, Garrett noted.
The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society started in January 2016 after the Canadian Cancer Society discontinued free transportation for patients in October 2015 as a cost-saving measure.
The VCDS is a registered charity, with its funding coming from a variety of municipal and charitable sources.
It runs lean, Garrett said, with 92 per cent of the money donated to the society going to cover drivers’ expenses.
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.
Anyone interested to visit the website for information on how to apply: volunteercancerdrivers.ca.
Drivers must provide proof of insurance, 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.