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Absence of wheelchair accessible taxis force elderly man to push wife home from Geraldton hospital

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Len Campbell was made to push his wife home from hospital due to the unavailability of a wheelchair accessible taxi.
Camera IconLen Campbell was made to push his wife home from hospital due to the unavailability of a wheelchair accessible taxi. Credit: Anna Cox

After his wife June was discharged from an 11-day stay in Geraldton Regional Hospital, Len Campbell was not expecting the journey home to be the most sour part of their experience.

After an almost two-hour wait, the 75-year-old ended up pushing his ill wife home.

Mrs Campbell was discharged late afternoon on Thursday, June 1, and the husband and wife called Geraldton Associated Taxis to book a wheelchair accessible vehicle, and were told the company was searching for one to send.

During this time, two regular taxis arrived to collect the pair, but they were unable to use the standard vehicle as Mrs Campbell had limited mobility.

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It was only when the second taxi arrived, the driver informed them one of two wheelchair-friendly vehicles in the city had a flat tyre and was out of service.

At this stage, the pair had been waiting for nearly two hours and had been aided by the staff member at the front desk.

“She went above and beyond, and we couldn’t be more grateful for everything she did with the resources at her disposal,” Mr Campbell said.

Mr Campbell was then forced to push his wife home, a 700m journey that was made even more daunting by his existing heart condition and emphysema.

A young female doctor came to the aid of the couple, helping push Mrs Campbell for 100m. “If it wasn’t for her, I would’ve had to call an ambulance for myself,” Mr Campbell said.

“We were walking on the road at night, with limited light, I slipped into the gutter a few times and you could tell cars were making a conscious effort to steer away from us in case I fell.”

Geraldton Associated Taxis explained the difficulty of acquiring staff, coupled with the fact they were the only wheelchair taxi provider in the region, meant they were often unable to service everyone requesting the specialised vehicles if timing overlapped.

The company mentioned they had found themselves unable to take bookings as they could not honour them, due to some journeys taking longer than expected and drivers becoming tied up with earlier bookings.

The incident happened one month after the Department of Transport held an in-person engagement meeting to discuss feedback on the regional wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) taxi service grant.

Geraldton is the next listed recipient for the grant scheme, which aims at contributing towards the cost of purchasing or replacing WAV taxis, and establishing WAV taxi services in towns where none exist.

The State Government has begun taking expressions of interest for service providers in the region, but it is not known if there has been a suitable applicant to fill the tender.

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