CareLift is a community outreach program providing patients and their family free transportation to and from hospitals, outpatient centers and medical office buildings. This program is sponsored by the Auxiliary of Mease Health Care. The service boasts four eight-passenger minivans staffed with volunteer drivers and volunteer aides. Rides are scheduled through a centralized dispatching office staffed by volunteer dispatchers.
Volunteer involvement with transportation services is not new; however, but what makes the CareLift program unique, is the fact that it is totally funded and staffed by volunteers, with no salary costs to the hospital.
About four years ago, the Auxiliary began hearing some serious concerns from volunteers who were concerned about patients driving when it was obvious they were just too sick to be behind the wheel. The Florida communities served are made up largely of a geriatric population (25% are 65 and older) and many residents live alone with no family nearby. Transportation was determined a real community problem.
Patient surveys showed 20% of patients had difficulty with transportation to and from healthcare facilities and 36% would use courtesy transportation, confirming the need for a transportation service. An Auxiliary planning task force was mobilized and input was received from Nursing Services, Risk Management, Social Services, Security and Administration. After 18 months of research and planning, on April 1, 1996, the CareLift Service became a reality.
CareLift’s achievements can be best seen through its growth in volunteers, from 18 in 1996 to 70 currently; the number of safe and reliable rides, from 2,800 in 1996 to 11,600 in 1998; and continuous feedback from their customers via surveys and letters.
“Although the benefit is obvious, not many healthcare organizations have made a commitment to provide their patients and patient’s families with transportation to and from their facilities, free or otherwise,” remarked Margie Harris, Director of Volunteer/Team Member Services, Morton Plant Mease Health Care. “It has happened for Mease Health Care because of a truly dedicated, community-focused Auxiliary. They recognized a critical need, found an innovative solution and committed the necessary financial and people resources to make the service a reality.”