Donna Smith is “afraid” to use the City of Welland paratransit service again after experiencing a weekend situation very similar to what happened less than two months ago.
In the late 1970s and confined to a wheelchair, the Welland woman who lives in Welland Hospital’s long-term care home found herself stranded after an afternoon and early evening of shopping at the Seaway Mall on a Saturday in mid-April.
The city called the incident at the time a “procedural error” that was being investigated and corrected to prevent a recurrence.
But on Saturday, it happened again — this time when Smith visited Walmart.
She was dropped off in the late afternoon by a WellTrans driver who told her that someone else would probably pick her up because their shift would be over between 7:15 and 8:00 p.m. given that his return home would arrive.
The clock struck around 8.15pm and she was sitting and waiting in the lobby of the department store, so she phoned her daughter Leanne, who lives in Cambridge and couldn’t easily jump into her car to pick her up. mom.
The two of them called WellTrans along with a number for the associated taxi company which they believe was given to them by the municipal transit service after the latest incident.
Shortly after, a cab pulled up in the parking lot, but Smith assumed it wasn’t for her as it was a sedan and not the wheelchair-accessible van she needed.
After more phone calls, a van showed up to pick her up after 9 p.m.
In an interview Thursday, Smith said the driver of the wheelchair van told her he was a mechanic for the taxi company and was asked to pick her up from Walmart.
A regular weekly tradition of going out into the community on Saturdays, Smith said it was the first time there had been a problem since he was stuck at Seaway Mall for two hours – until the center closed commercial. She was kept company by security guards who stayed with her.
But now she doesn’t know if staying home might be her best option.
“How can you go out and have fun if you don’t know if you’ll get caught?” she says.
“Is this just going to ruin all my free time? I’ve been thinking about it for the past few days. »
The April incident ended with staff from the hospital’s long-term care unit having to pick her up.
Leanne Condon is shocked that her mother went through this again.
“I thought they fixed that problem,” she said in an interview this week.
She contacted the hospital foyer to let them know why her mother was not back when she was expected.
“They were also in disbelief. It was literally the same thing that happened before,” she said.
“It’s not right,” she added.
On behalf of WellTrans and the City of Welland, corporate communications manager Marc MacDonald admitted another incident had occurred.
“Unfortunately, the rider who scheduled her service through WellTrans did not receive the service she had booked,” he said in a statement.
He said WellTrans was notified of the missed pickup through its internal reservations system, and the duty supervisor immediately contacted the passenger to let her know that he would send a taxi to pick her up.
“Welland Transit staff are meeting with the third-party taxi company that provides this after-hours service to once again determine what went wrong and why no service was provided,” it said. he declares.
In April, MacDonald said Coventry Taxi is the company the city works with for this service.
A voicemail message left at its Ottawa headquarters on Thursday was not returned by press time.