West Coast DHB seeks support for public transport service

West Coast DHB chairman Rick Barker
West Coast DHB chairman Rick Barker
The West Coast District Health Board is appealing to the West Coast Regional Council to support a public transport service between Greymouth and Westport.

Since 2012, the Buller branch of the Red Cross has run a community health shuttle for Westport people with medical appointments in Greymouth.

But Red Cross throughout the country is moving out of providing patient transport and has given notice that the service will end next year.

DHB chairman Rick Barker told a board meeting last Friday that the regional council was the organisation responsible for public transport.

"Currently there is none between Westport and Greymouth. Thus is an opportunity to approach the regional council about (starting) a reliable service that would work for the public and patients and the DHB."

Regional council chairman Allan Birchfield says the council would be open to the idea.

"It would need to be subsidised, and it would have to work in with one of the freight services to be viable, I think.

"You could have a bus or van with freight in the back and passengers in the front."

Mr Birchfield said he already floated the idea with one of the Coast freight operators.

"That's as far as it's got -- it's early days but it is something the council will be looking at."

The West Coast DHB has an agreement with Red Cross to provide a small financial contribution toward the running costs of the vehicle it uses for the Westport to Greymouth shuttle.

The Ministry of Health subsidises patient travel through its National Travel Assistance scheme, but generally only patients referred for specialist appointments are eligible.

- By Lois Williams
Local Democracy Reporter 

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