As Greater Sudbury readies for a massive overhaul to the way its bus service operates, a staffer at the Sudbury Outpatient Centre says route changes will affect patients.
Devon Jahnke, who works at HSN's Diabetes Care Service Sudbury Outpatient Centre in the former Memorial Hospital on Regent Street, said in an email the centre is losing its bus stop when routes change Aug. 26.
“We have many patients with severe health issues that need this service,” Jahnke said in an email. “They cannot walk up the hill from Regent Street to the building. (They) often require mobility aids.
“Our patients are at risk for limb amputation or have had amputations due to diabetes and it is a shame that our city will contribute to stats of our (North East Local Health Integration Network) having the second highest amputations rates in Ontario.”
Michelle Ferrigan, director of Greater Sudbury Transit, said Wednesday the city was prepared for problems moving 300 of the city's 1,400 bus stops would create.
“We needed to move some of the stops, and this is happening now across the city,” Ferrigan said.
During four rounds of public consultations, the message they received from the public was residents wanted more frequent service along routes, with reliable schedules so they can get to where they need to go on time.
“So based on those criteria, the system was developed,” Ferrigan said. “One thing that we did make clear throughout those public events was there are some tradeoffs that need to be made. So we asked the question, are you willing to walk a little bit further to get (to your bus stop.) And nine times out of 10, the answer was yes.”
People who said no to the question generally had mobility issues, such as the outpatient centre, Ferrigan said. But for most people, they said they need a system they can rely on and that's more convenient.
While she expects some issues with meeting the scheduled route times next week, Ferrigan said those issues will be worked out as the changes take hold.
For cases such as the outpatient centre, the city is working with them to accommodate their patients.
“The outpatient centre is a little bit different because of the services that they provide, so we made that decision very carefully,” she said. “We have, on average, 10 to 15 (people who use that bus stop), and I think it was an average of 12.
“That's a number that's low enough that we can manage by working with them.”
Because patients book appointments, the city can arrange to link them with GovaPlus, the successor to HandiTransit.
So they can take conventional buses to one of the transit hubs, where they connect with a GovaPlus that will take them directly to the centre, and back to the transit hub after their appointment.
“This is a perfect example of when someone needs a ride, we will give it to them,” she said. “We will find a way and we will make sure that no one is left behind.
“We'll look at it on a trip-by-trip basis and manage their trips that way … We are working with the executives at the hospital and they will be working with their patients, as well.”
When the new system launches next week, they learn in real time whether the route times are manageable and what chances are needed.
“We've tested them without passengers, but now we need to test these routes and make sure that we have enough time in certain routes... We need to see real life information and data (telling us) we can make these trips within the the scheduled time.”
As the changeover date nears, Ferrigan said they are getting a lot of feedback from the public. Extra people will be on hand to answer questions next week, and anyone who arrives at a bus stop that has been moved will see a sign telling them where the new location can be found.
“Certainly when you're making changes this large, it's expected and anticipated that some people will be impacted,” she said. “We're here to help. So if they have questions they can come and ask us about the when and where and what to help them guide them through the system.”
Jahnke didn't return calls from Sudbury.com seeking comment on her concerns, but HSN spokesperson Jason Turnbull said in an email that the hospital has been in contact with the city over the outpatient centre's concerns.
“City staff have indicated they are working at finding solutions to these concerns going forward,” Turnbull said.
More information about the changes at Greater Sudbury Transit can be found on the city's website.