In Central Ohio, the American Red Cross provides community transportation, primarily to elderly residents and cancer patients who need to get to their medical appointments. Twenty-two drivers average 8 to 12 trips daily, sometimes driving up to 200 miles during a shift. A Red Cross staff person plans each driver’s route. Other Red Cross staff serve as dispatchers and oversee the maintenance of the Red Cross vehicles.
Red Cross drivers are trained in CPR, first aid, and the use of an AED. They submit to background checks and take a variety of driving courses. Drivers also participate in shadowing experiences.
Dan Stumpf is a Red Cross Community Transportation driver who began his 20 years of Red Cross service transporting blood. Now he enjoys interacting with his passengers, who are mostly elderly people and veterans.
To make the patients’ trips more enjoyable, Dan has a plethora of compact discs to set the mood for each patient that he is transporting. Big band music, 1950’s doo-wop, and 1960’s pop fill his van. The patients tap their toes to the music as Dan jokes back and forth with them, making the trips even more pleasant.
Two elderly patients are typical. One was going to a doctor’s appointment, the other for dialysis. Dan has a schedule with their home addresses and where they are going. He uses a smartphone to communicate with the dispatcher, who enters Dan’s whereabouts into a computer program.
Using smartphones and computer technology, the dispatcher tracks the progress of all of the driver in real time. Drivers also communicate traffic problems to the dispatcher, who passes this information on to the other drivers. Information about delayed and cancelled appointments is also communicated between drivers and the dispatcher.
Maintaining vehicles; training, scheduling and tracking drivers and passengers – it’s a complex process with many variables. The people behind the process make it all work. Administrative staff step in to help when a vehicle breaks down. The dispatcher juggles drivers and schedules. The coffee pot is always on. And the smiling face of drivers like Dan make a routine trip to the doctor an enjoyable social event.
Patients using the American Red Cross’s Community Transportation Program have no other means to get to their regularly scheduled medical appointments. Through this program, Dan and the other Red Cross drivers enable elderly and ill Central Ohioans to get the medical care their lives depend on.