SANDRA Oldfield had been a vibrant adventurer until a degenerative condition took its toll and she required major spinal surgery.
Now she is left with neurological after-effects and complex pain syndrome that make it difficult and painful to use taxis and buses.
She is the ideal client as the first official passenger for south-west Victoria’s new ConnectU transport assistance program which uses cars made available by councils and not-for-profit organisations.
The former high-level public relations manager, now aged in her 60s, was grateful for the personalised service provided by ConnectU operations manager Brenda Hampson, who drove Ms Oldfield to a medical appointment.
“Getting in and out of taxis is awkward and stressful,” Ms Oldfield told The Standard.
“I’m so glad that someone can come to my door, drop me off at appointments and give me personal assistance.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed.”
Ms Hampson said there had been about 30 inquiries since the service was officially launched.
“Warrnambool City Council has organised availability of staff cars when idle in their car park and our member partners MPower and Aspire said they also would make staff and fleet cars available,” she said.
“We use drivers through Volunteers Warrnambool and anyone wishing to help out can contact me on 0419 599 571.
“Drivers will be taken through skills training.
“It’s a service that provides the personal touch to people going through difficult health issues.
“It may also extend the service to beyond Warrnambool district to include trips to Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne.
“Costs will be subsidised, but there will be a small charge for clients and estimates will be provided upon booking confirmation.”
The service is believed to be a first of its type in Victoria and was launched with funding from the bus industry as a two-year pilot project.
A Deakin University research team will evaluate the results.