ABOVE: Richmond Valley Volunteer health transport chairman Chris Wakely, centre, with one of the cars. Photo: Contributed
When Colin Sharwood needed to go to 25 sessions of radiation for stage 4 stomach cancer, he turned to Richmond Valley Volunteer Health Transport.
After being diagnosed last December Colin had to go from Casino to Lismore Base Hospital for regular treatment.
The transport charity was “very helpful,” he said.
“They picked me up and gave me a hand with the paperwork to get my rebate,” Mr Sharwood said.
“They were brilliant and I would have never got to the treatment without them.”
Mr Sharwood said he wasn’t able to use HART transport because he is not retired and is under 60 years of age.
The Richmond Valley transport service does 2500 trips a year offering a one-on-one service using one of its 24 volunteer drivers.
At the last RVVHT meeting a difficult decision was made to stop the service on March 31 unless substantial funding could be found.
Chairman Chris Wakely said three years ago, they had start-up funding of $40,000 from the Casino RSM Club, when the group took over the service from the Uniting Church who had been doing it for 20 years.
Then they got a My Community Project grant close to $100,000.
Unfortunately, the transport service needs regular funding to cover running costs of $100,000 a year. This covers two part time staff and reimbursement of drivers’ petrol and use of their cars.
Richmond Valley Council has helped by giving the charity office space on Walker St for a “peppercorn rent.”
The HART service is funded through State Government transport and when RVVHT go for grants, the fact there is another transport charity in the area limits grants they can receive.
State MP Chris Gulaptis said RVVHT do a terrific job.
“It’s a grassroots organisation. They are connected to the community and fill the gaps left by the government,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“HART doesn’t operate on a 24-hour basis.
Can the government change the laws for the Richmond Valley service?
It was unlikely, Mr Gulaptis said.
Unless a new model provides a way for RVVHT to continue operating, the valuable service for those most vulnerable in the community will be lost.