Northern Health bus available for any health appointment

Community leaders raised concerns of low ridership on the Northern Health Connections bus.

Community leaders raised concerns of low ridership on the Northern Health Connections bus and talked about the food drives next month at the Houston Health Education Community Services Safety Committee (CHESS) meeting last Thursday.

Northern Health local representative Sally Sullivan revealed that she has clarified that the bus service that transports clients to medical appointments

“I think there were a lot of people in the community that were not aware exactly what the Health Connections bus could be used for,” Sullivan said. “It’s not limited to only physician appointment or specialist appointment.”

“That can be used for a dental appointment, optometrist, anything really that has a connection with health.”

Sullivan revealed

the ridership is “very low” at the meeting.

“I think that’s why they’re very lenient about how closely related to health it is, and I think until the bus is jammed packed every trip, they’re not really going to push back.”

Houston RCMP Sgt. Rose asked if the bus could be used for probation court visits in Smithers.

“We have a fair number of clients that need to get to Smithers for various things, so I’m wondering if there’s a way,” he said.

Sullivan later noted that she will check if this is possible.

The bus costs $20 to $80 for a return trip depending on the distance.

“I know there’s been community members who have used it to go to Vancouver for a specialist appointment,” Sullivan said.

The bus goes to important centres for medical care such as Terrace, Prince George and Smithers. It runs a Thursday service where riders can get to Smithers and back on the same day.

People looking for more information can find out more at nhconnections.ca, or call 1888-647-6997.

Coun. Jonathan Van Barneveld sees promoting the bus as a means to ensure its sustainability and solving transportation issues.

“Now that we know the definition of ‘health’ is very broad, people can really utilize that. It’s about getting information out there and educating the public so that it eventually becomes their first option,” Coun. Van Barneveld said. “For people that don’t have vehicles, transportation is a big thing, so if they realize that Thursday’s the day you can do that, then they can really coordinate their efforts and get ridership up. We can really ensure the sustainability of the bus.”

He also found that the community is getting together for the Christmas donation drive.

“We learned there’s lots of appetite to coordinate and promote our Christmas gathering efforts, like the food drive, the blanket drive or the jackets [drive], gifts for kids, or boxes that gets shipped to poor countries,” Coun. Jonathan Van Barneveld, who chaired the meeting, said. “So I think that’s going to be really important because then we might be able to help groups either reach further into the community or really maximize the return on raising those charity events.”

Van Barneveld noted the poor attendance of the meeting.

In addition to Van Barneveld, Sullivan and Sgt. Rose, leisure services director Ryan Coltura, fire chief Jim Daigneault and corporate services officer Lindsay Blair attended. No one attended via teleconference.

“So there’s some soul searching there we might have to do,” Van Barneveld said. “This is the second meeting where we’ve had pretty low attendance.”