The volunteer society that has given countless rides to cancer patients going to the hospital for treatment is not about to stop now, pandemic or not.
On March 18, Grace Halvorson, the program's co-ordinator, told The Chief they are still driving passengers to and from cancer treatments amid novel coronavirus concerns in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
"We're still open for business," Halvorson said. "As long as we feel like our drivers are safe and that the people getting in our cars are 'healthy,' then we're happy to keep doing this."
Cancer patients need to have continuous treatment, she said, which can't be interrupted. People with cancer may be considered in the high-risk category for COVID-19, because of the immune-suppressing nature of many treatments used for the disease.
Halvorson said the Squamish Volunteer Drivers for Cancer Program is following the guidelines from BC Cancer and public health, and have shared those guidelines with the volunteer drivers. Since the free service is curb-to-curb, drivers don't need to enter a home or the hospital, helping them keep a safe distance.
"Our drivers know that they have the right to always refuse a drive," Halvorson said, if they believe the passenger has COVID-19 symptoms or is too sick to transport.
Of the program's 14 drivers, some have elected not to drive during this time. Around eight are currently offering their services. In Squamish, three people are using the free ride program.
The Squamish Volunteer Drivers for Cancer Program has been operating for decades, giving passengers a rountrip lift to their primary care — chemotherapy, radiation treatment, surgery and doctor's appointments. While chemotherapy can be accessed in Squamish or at Lions Gate Hospital, the majority of trips are for radiation treatment at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver.
You can get in touch with the program at 604-390-3331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.