‘It just makes things difficult’
Family asks for changes to accessible bus service
The daughter of a Glace Bay woman who requires life-saving treatment is asking for an accessibility fleet expansion in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Annette Cluett says her 70-year-old mother, who lives next door in an attached apartment, started undergoing kidney dialysis last fall.
Jane Cluett must now travel about a half hour, three times a week, for treatment at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney.
The senior uses a wheelchair and relies the municipal HandiTrans system for her appointments. Due to an increasing demand for the service, she can only be transported one way.
“The wheelchair makes things difficult but it’s the fact that I work,” said Annette Cluett.
“My son is 17 — he wants to work — and has a life outside of school. It just makes things difficult trying to arrange everything.
We have one vehicle.”
Annette asked if her mother’s schedule could be changed but was told it wouldn’t be possible due to the high volume of patients requiring care.
She said it’s unclear if changing the days of Jane’s treatment would help in securing transportation from HandiTrans
in both directions.
“It’s an older population,” she said. “And she’s not the only one in this predicament.”
Annette said without help Jane would be required pay about $75 a week in taxi fares, which is no small fee for someone on a fixed income.
“If she doesn’t go she’ll die,” she said. “It’s not that we can put it off for a couple of weeks. She has to go. I’m only speaking up for my mother. I’m her advocate but there’s some out there who don’t have that.”
The Cluett family is asking CBRM and the province to consider funding an expansion of Handi-Trans that would allow for trips to and from the hospital.
Disabilities advocate Marcie Shwery-Stanley uses the busing system six times per week and has noticed a change in the volume of clients.
“The ridership has increased immensely over the years but the service has not kept up,” she said.
“With our demographics for seniors, it’s not going to let up. It’s going to continue.”
Shwery-Stanley describes the service as a lifeline for users such as herself who use power wheelchairs and cannot be transported by regular vehicle.
Municipal spokesperson Jillian Moore said Handi-Trans system administrators try to find an alternate schedule that will work for their passengers.
“The demand is high for the service,” she said. “It is a policy that we guarantee one-way based on availability, but you could get return service if the schedule allows.
“We always try our best to accommodate everyone within the limitations of our budget, the number of drivers and our fleet.”
Moore said a pilot project this year will see 20 more hours added to Handi-Trans.
A recent announcement of provincial funding will allow CBRM to purchase a new Handi-Trans bus; however, the vehicle will be used to improve the current fleet, not expand it.
Jane Cluett is picked up Thursday afternoon from one of three weekly dialysis appointments by her grandson Adrian Cluett, age 17.