The free shuttle at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) has already given around 200 rides to patients and visitors since the service began a few weeks ago.
Related story: KBRH addresses construction woes
The shuttle runs a loop from the parking lot to partway down the hill from about 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 p.m. on weekdays.
“(This is) when we see the highest number of people coming to the hospital,” spokesperson Mandy Lowery told the Trail Times. “The driver circles the KBRH parking lot itself and also makes runs down to the bottom of the hill, to St. Michael’s Catholic School, to offer rides to anyone walking up the hill.”
Passengers are brought to the five-minute drop-off area for the main entrance.
“Anyone who wants a ride can just flag the shuttle driver,” said Lowery.
Problems with access and parking have been ongoing since ground broke on the years-long emergency department renovations back in October.
Topping the list of challenges are the front door drop-off, which has been closed since construction began, and fewer parking spots available.
“We heard a number of concerns from patients and visitors,” Lowery said. “Particularly those with mobility challenges, about the distance from parking to the new entrance, and we felt a shuttle might address those concerns.”
The shuttle is one of IH’s decommissioned Ford Escape fleet vehicles, and the service is presently relying on volunteers to support its operation.
”We are looking to see if resources can be found to staff the vehicle moving forward,” she added.
“While that is happening, anyone interested in volunteering to drive the shuttle can pick up a volunteer application form at the Auxiliary Gift Shop in the hospital lobby.”
Renovation plans for the $19-million project include a single-storey addition to the existing building that will significantly expand the size of the emergency department.