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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

Lack of funds halts East Toledo, Oregon van rides to medical care

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Patricia Purdy always used Care-a-Van to get her to doctors' appointments.

"It could get me there and the drivers were always very pleasant," said Ms. Purdy, 73, of Oregon.

Care-a-Van provides free transportation for people in the East Toledo and Oregon areas who need help getting to and from their medical appointments. The service is free, though donations are accepted. It has been closed down temporarily because of a need for more money.

Dr. Erol Riza, a volunteer in the Care-a-Van service and a retired gynecologist who practiced in the Oregon area for 30 years, said the shut down is due to the poor condition of the vehicles used to transport customers.

Lee Henry, a driver with Care-a-Van, said both of the vans "need repair and we don't know how long it will take to repair [them]. The brake system in one of the vans is bad."

Users of the service like Ms. Purdy are upset about the discontinuation of service.

"It's a dirty shame that something good has to end," Ms. Purdy said.

Marge Brown, mayor of Oregon, said the possible loss of Care-a-Van, which has been in business for four years and transports about 3,000 people per year, is sad.

"It was such a great service," she said.

The service runs entirely on donations. Towns that are served by Care-a-Van contribute money as well.

The City of Oregon pays the insurance for both vans.

Though the financial outlook is grim, Ms. Brown said Care-a-Van was hoping to receive some large donations in order to continue the service.

"It's a truly a personal service," she said.

Rising fuel costs and an aging fleet of vans contributed to the company's financial straits. Care-a-Van spent $731.35 on gasoline alone in the month of June.

"We provide a service without any financial benefits. Completely for the community and the underprivileged. We need some money to provide that service," Dr. Riza said.

There were 19 passengers who were younger than 50 years old, and 152 who were over 50.

According to Care-a-Van's records, 74 of the passengers were taken to doctors' appointments, 64 were taken to physical therapy, three went to the Pain Care Clinic, two were discharged, two were taken to the hospital for heart failure conditions, and eight were admitted to the hospital.

The company's last day of service was last Wednesday.

Mr. Henry said the service is "necessary" because of the lack of public transportation in Oregon.

"We serve a lot people on the East Side and there's no bus service here at all. Oregon is kind of left on the short end of this," he said.

"The patients that don't have a ride are out of luck. You can only ask a friend so many times. We take some people to physical therapy three times a week."

Dr. Riza said that the fate of Care-a-Van will be decided within the next few weeks.

Contact Meredith Byers at:

mbyers@theblade.com

or 419-724-6101.



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