Calls to get a move on and fix transport

By KUE DAVIS

RONETTE Wright is frustrated and bewildered at the lack of community and public transport in Coffs Harbour.

And she's not the only one, with the recently released 'No Transport No Treatment' report raising concerns regional people are being denied access to key services because of inadequate resources.

Mrs Wright, 37, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair-bound, has had a variety of problems in attempting to use local community transport services.

"I just recently came out of John Hunter hospital after two and a half months in there, and since then, I've had real trouble getting transportation," she said.

"I rang up the service two weeks in advance to book in a lift to my doctor, who is in Bellingen, and it wasn't available. You're supposed to be able to contact these services to go shopping and get to places. I never ring these services up to go shopping it's always for appointments or treatments and I still can't get in.

"Before I went into hospital, I had a permanent booking for Tuesday and Thursday every week for three years but now, trying to get back into the service is a nightmare.

Mrs Wright said the smallest things can put her day out, without having to worry about transport.

"I can't go out in the rain, and because I have multiple sclerosis, I'm heat affected, so I can only go out early morning or late afternoon.

"Some days I do like to treat myself to a day out of the house, and head to the Botanic Gardens. Last week, I got the store to call me a cab, and I had to wait half an hour before they came.

"By then, the clouds had come over and it was hardly worth it."

Director of local charity FoodCare, Stefan Sorenson, has endorsed the key recommendations in the report, which was commissioned by the Council of Social Service in NSW, the NSW Community Transport Organisation and The Cancer Council.

"Many elderly and disadvantaged local families are unable to access desperately needed food assistance and services because of the high demand for community transport," he said.

"FoodCare is being overwhelmed with daily calls from distressed families this Christmas. For many of them, lack of access to transport is an additional burden at a time when they are most vulnerable."

Executive officer of the Community Transport Organisation, Peter McLeod said a lack of funding was the issue.

"Existing government programs designed to provide disabled and elderly people with access to essential services are being clogged with requests for health transport," Mr McLeod said.

"We recommend State funding for health transport to be increased from $3 million a year to $10 million to address the problem. Transport should not be a barrier to accessing services."



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