Senior sees need for better transportation from hospital

A Fruitvale senior can’t shake a taxi ride home or the bill he still owes and wonders why there are little options when it comes to making it home safely in the middle of the night.

A Fruitvale senior can’t shake a taxi ride home or the bill he still owes and wonders why there are little options when it comes to making it home safely in the middle of the night.

But the owner of Champion Cabs says business is dead and his drivers have been ripped off too many times and are weary of late nightriders.

Leo Levac was discharged from the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital after 2 a.m. last Sunday when a pain in his groan led him to take an ambulance in the wee hours.

The 69-year-old called a cab to pick him up after determining he had just enough in his pocket and in his bank account to fit the bill.

A drive out to Fruitvale proved helpless when the bank machine was down so, the driver decided to head back to the bank at Waneta Plaza, where Levac could access some funds.

But the already pricy trip read nearly $90 on the meter by the time the driver pulled back into Trail and the senior told the driver he couldn’t cover the  bill.

“He turned off the meter, flipped it into gear and took off like a mad man,” recalled Levac, who then was taken by surprise when the driver headed across the street, parked his car and said, “Let’s go talk to my boss.”

“I got scared like hell, I was thinking we’re walking toward the river in the dark and it’s 3 in the morning,” he said. “I had a bypass done about a month ago and I couldn’t run but if I could have, I would have headed back to the highway and flagged somebody down.”

He started to relax when he realized that the two were indeed at the company’s headquarters, where the cab and the dispatcher took his name and address and asked Levac to pay later.

“This is no way to treat a senior citizen who is getting out of the hospital,” said Levac. “He scared the devil out of me, he didn’t threaten me verbally or nothing but just the way he was acting, I thought I was finished.”

John Foglia, owner of Champion Cabs, said his drivers get ripped off all the time and the run around the driver went through most likely felt like a flash back to the last time someone set him up and took off without paying. Levac had, yet, to pay Foglia the $54 he owes when the Times caught up with him Thursday afternoon.

“There’s so many ways of looking at this,” said Foglia. “Could the driver have done something different? If you stand back and understand what went wrong, yeah probably, but in all fairness.”

He wondered what the hospital was doing sending a sick man home after 2 a.m. in the first place.

Interior Health spokesperson Karl Hardt says the Trail hospital discharges patients from the emergency room once the doctor treats them and determines they’re in good shape to go home.

“As a health authority, our core mandate is providing health care services, so we don’t operate specific transportation services,” he added. “However, Interior Health does partially fund the regional Health Connections bus service for scheduled medical appointments.”

Health Connections is a partnership between Interior Health, regional districts, municipalities, BC Transit and local not-for-profit societies that expands transportation routes and increase patient access to non-emergency medical appointments.