PhillyCarShare and the American Cancer Society are teaming up to provide free rides for cancer patients to their treatments.
Starting Jan. 4, a new program called PhillyPatientRide will let volunteers use PhillyCarShare vehicles to pick up cancer patients at their door and drive them to their scheduled treatments.
For cancer patients, reliable transportation to the hospital can sometimes be a struggle — so much so that they cancel as many as 20 percent of their appointments because they can’t find a way there.
Stefanie Washburn of the American Cancer Society said when people miss important appointments they run the risk of getting sicker.
“What we’re hoping and expecting is decreasing the frequency in which people miss treatment,” she said. It means “allowing people to get to treatment with more ease, stick to their treatment regimens, which they surely know is really critical for their treatment to work optimally.”
During the 10-week trial period, patients getting cancer treatment at one of four participating Philadelphia hospitals — the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson, Hahnemann and Temple University — will be selected to participate. After that, the program will open to the general public. Organizers hope to enlist 100 volunteers and make 20 trips daily.
Gerald Furgione with PhillyCarShare, a nonprofit organization that rents out more than 200 vehicles from dozens of lots around the city, said some patients are too weak to drive themselves and family members can’t always take off work.
“It’s not uncommon for a patient to call up and say I can’t make it today. I don’t have a ride,” he said. “So what this is going to do is remove those obstacles, where people who are suffering and going through these treatments won’t have to worry about where their next ride is going to come from.”
Washburn said volunteers must have a valid driver’s license, be at least 21 and have a clean driving record, but personality is important too.
“We’re really looking for people who have a lot of heart and who care about helping people in need and want to have the opportunity to get to know some people and participate in a extremely important community initiative,” she said.