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Suwannee Valley TA: Dialysis Patients Riding On Saturday for Another Month

Nash keeps SVTA on track – transporting those who can't transport themselves

Com. Nash made his case for Sat-urday transport of dialysis patients

LIVE OAK, FL – Last night's Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) meeting was a two hour and thirty two minute marathon in a packed, almost sweltering room. The contentiousness that earmarked the reign of the recently departed Administrator Gwen Pra and Operations Manager Bill Steele is subsiding as Interim Administrator Teresa Fortner, with the help of the Commission for the Disadvantaged (CTD), guides the agency through choppy waters.

The CTD has been taking a hands-on role righting the SVTA so that people in the tri-county area of Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties who need transportation services, have it. A proposal to cut off Saturday transportation for the area's dialysis patients was squelched by Columbia County's Bucky Nash.

Interim Dir.Fortner during the dialysis discussion.

Interim Director Fortner advised the Board, "We contacted our dialysis centers about cancelling Saturday service for our TD riders. Probably as of this Friday, those funds will be up. We will have to start turning trips away unless we get more funding. One way that we knew to cut costs was to cancel Saturday service. I know it's a life sustaining thing. We hate it."

The SVTA's decades long Board Chairman, Ronald Williams, said he spoke to the CTD’s Executive Director, Steven Holmes, in depth earlier in the day (Williams speaking): “He said when you use up all your money, you have to cut services. He say he hate to.  He said those people are the ones that fall in-between the cracks. If they had money to pay for a ride themselves they wouldn’t be on TD, but you can’t afford to do it for nothin’ because you're goin’ back in the hole again. He said that hopefully that he goin’ to be able to find us some money to help in this situation, but right now it’s not there.”

Chairman Williams: "That's what got us in the hole in the first place."

Commissioner Williams continued, “So, that’s where we are. We’re askin’ Suwannee Valley Transit to do trips when we know we’re goin’ in the hole with it. And that’s what got us in the hole the first time.”

Com. Nash: "You're gonna' put those people in the hospital"

Commissioner Nash said, “I don’t agree with not transportin’ the dialysis patients. They are your critical patients. You're gonna’  put those people in the hospital.”

Commissioner Nash asked for the cost to transport dialysis patients. The SVTA didn’t know.

Hamilton County’s Beth Burnam asked how many people were being transported to dialysis appointments on the weekend.

From the back of the room, the SVTA's Driver Supervisor Ken answered, “Fifteen, probably less than fifteen; probably six to eight in Live Oak.”

Com. Nash asked, “So this Saturday, are we transportin’?”

Interim Director Fortner said Saturday dialysis transportation would continue until the Board made a decision.

Com Nash asked again for a cost.

Com. Williams said there needs to be a decision tonight. “We need to know that we’re not goin’ in the hole doin’ so. She already made the commitment to transport this Saturday. We’re talkin’ about the Saturdays after this weekend.”

Ms. Fortner explained that the SVTA receives funds monthly, adding, “By Friday, this month's funds will be exhausted.” Because of cancellations she said, “It’s hard to track at the beginning of the month where you're going to be at the end of the month.”

Com. Gamble said, “It’s a tough decision. If you can’t pay for it. You can’t pay for it.”

Com. Nash, who has personal experience with dialysis said, “We’ve got to come up with an alternative.”

After almost 20 minutes of discussion and debate, Commissioner Nash moved that dialysis patients be transported on Saturdays until the next SVTA meeting.

The motion passed unanimously. SVTA dialysis patients will continue to be transported to their Saturday dialysis appointments for at least another month.

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