Oliver Red Cross receives a shot in the arm

Health Equipment Loan Program gets funding for much-needed expansion

Oliver’s Red Cross chapter got a boost to their ability to help those in need when one of their programs, aptly named HELP, received a much-needed expansion.

HELP, or the Health Equipment Loan Program, is an initiative by the Red Cross to provide  medical equipment such as wheelchairs or walkers to people who need them on a short-term basis. All the Red Cross asks in return is for a donation — which is quite cheap compared to the cost of renting the equipment.

Oliver’s expansion represents one part of a provincewide renewal plan for the program.

Many different groups of the community came together to help with the project including: the Town of Oliver; the Oliver Kiwanis Club; the Knights of Columbus; and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

The project entailed the Oliver Red Cross client service site gaining a new storage area for the medial equipment built as well as gaining amenities such as a fax machine, copy machine, a new desk and filing space.

Wilma Corriveau has been volunteering with the Red Cross for the last 11 years, and is the Oliver centre’s team leader. Corriveau said the demand for the program has increased over the last few years — of the 23 wheelchairs the program owns, at the time of the interview, all but four were out with clients.

With the population aging, as well as the Town of Oliver expecting an influx of retirement-aged to begin flocking to the community, the demand for the program is only going to continue to increase.

The increasing demand for the program’s services created problems for the organization, said Corriveau, which had to try to balance the storage of the equipment with the space that was provided.

“We had to turn away equipment donated, or we had to give donated equipment to Kelowna or Osoyoos because we just couldn’t keep it,” she said. “There was no room.”

The program is also used by people who need medical equipment, but aren’t sure what kind they need. Patients will get referrals to the program from their doctors, and take out the medical equipment on a sort of test run, Corriveau said. After trying the equipment short-term, the patients return the equipment with a better understanding of exactly what they need and buy their own.

Many of the people who are referred to the Red Cross are individuals coming out of Oliver’s South Okanagan General Hospital. Genevieve Nice, manager of acute services with the hospital, said via email that the program is invaluable to the hospital.

 

“A lot of inpatients need equipment in order to go home. Purchasing equipment or renting is costly; it also takes a while and slows up the discharge process.  Because people can access short-term equipment loans quickly from the Red Cross, then they can go back to their home and family from the hospital,” she said.

For more information on HELP or to find a referral form, visit www.redcross.com.