The Canadian Red Cross and Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) have partnered to resume a project piloted two years ago to increase the number of wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility aids available for free, temporary loan to the public in Cape Breton, and to expand the project to Antigonish and Guysborough counties.
“Some mobility and safety devices we’ve loaned, free of charge, are not returned for a variety of reasons, one being that the borrower simply lacks the means to do so,” Judy Hynes MacNeil, Nova Scotia manager of the Red Cross’ Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP), said.
Under a six-month pilot project, with funding support from the Eastern Zone of the NSHA, people in the Sydney area were encouraged, in late 2015, to return borrowed items or to donate reusable mobility devices to the Red Cross. If unable to deliver them to the Red Cross office in Sydney, the organization arranged pickup by its volunteers.
The pilot resulted in 83 items, valued at more than $11,000, being collected; increasing the inventory available for others to use.
A small amount of additional funding has allowed for a resumption of the program and expansion to all areas covered by the health authority’s Eastern Zone, which includes Antigonish, Cape Breton, Guysborough, Inverness, Richmond and Victoria counties.
To return a loaned item, request a pickup or discuss an equipment donation, the public can contact the Red Cross between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, in Sydney at 1140 Upper Prince Street or 902-564-4114, or in Antigonish at 36 Market Street – Unit 2 (opposite Atlantic Superstore) or 902-863-8222.
“Another key to the success of this project is volunteer drivers and the Red Cross needs more of them, especially to support equipment pickup in more rural areas.” MacNeil said.
The Canadian Red Cross offers short-term loans of standard wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, commodes, raised toilet sets, bath-transfer benches, shower seats, bath and bed safety rails, rollators, reachers, versa frames and other mobility aids to those recovering from illness, injury or surgery or in palliative care.
There is no charge, but loans require a written referral from a health-care professional specifying the equipment needed.
The Red Cross also accepts financial donations to defray HELP program costs. Mobility devices in good working condition, but no longer needed by owners, can also be donated and may qualify for a tax receipt.
All returned or donated items are assessed for suitable reuse and undergo a rigorous program of maintenance, cleaning and disinfection before they can be added to the HELP program of the Canadian Red Cross, which in Nova Scotia is accredited by Accreditation Canada, meeting many of the same standards for equipment safety, maintenance and cleanliness as required by accredited hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
More information about the program is online at redcross.ca/HELP.