Mayor Ken Popove met with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee over the taxi transfer debacle. (File photo)

Mayor Ken Popove met with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee over the taxi transfer debacle. (File photo)

Chilliwack mayor takes taxi transfer topic to Vancouver

Meeting with the mayor, health minister and Fraser Health CEO confirmed that taxi transfers happen

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove drove into Vancouver to find out why Fraser Health allowed a vulnerable patient to be discharged from Surrey Memorial and driven to a Chilliwack homeless shelter by taxi.

Popove said he met with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee on March 16 — after his scathing letter to Fraser Health was brought up in the B.C. legislature on March 15. The letter referred to two individuals who’d been taxied to Chilliwack shelters with mental and physical health concerns that shelters workers were unprepared to deal with.

The mayor emerged from his meeting with a glimmer of optimism about the prospect of working closer together, but he wasn’t convinced the discharge practice will stop any time soon.

READ MORE: Fraser Health slammed for taxi debacle

“I went there to talk about our community’s struggles to take care of vulnerable people who show up in Chilliwack. It’s not that I am without compassion or empathy for their struggles, but I had to suggest that perhaps we have more than our fair share of homeless people,” Popove said.

Given that Chilliwack is pushed to the brink withhomelessness, the already-strained resources for the community’s most vulnerable, like shelter beds, should not be used either to “make Chilliwack a destination for homeless people from throughout the region,” Popove argued in his original letter.

Shelters workers are not trained for this, the mayor underlined.

READ MORE: Taxi transfer topic reaches B.C. Premier

Popove noted he may have “ruffled some feathers” when he put his concerns on the table with the minister and health official. He thought he would only get 15 minutes of their time but was happy he was given an hour.

“They both agreed this is a practice that they have been doing, discharging patients into shelters,” the mayor said.

Fraser Health spokesman Dixon Tam confirmed that the homeless taxi transfer does in fact happen, and said they endeavour to make arrangements focused on safety.

“Prior to discharging vulnerable patients that are medically stable, Fraser Health policy stipulates the care team ensures arrangements are made for safe transport home in consultation with the patient and their family or support person,” Tam explained on behalf of Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee.

“Taxis are sometimes used by patients who do not have their own transportation or someone who can pick them up.”

Dr. Lee made a point of reaching out to the Chilliwack mayor last week “as soon as she was made aware of his concerns,” said the Fraser Health official. “They had a productive conversation regarding how we can work together on improving the health and housing options in our communities.”

The health authority spokesperson defined “vulnerable patients” as those: who are frail, elderly, mentally or physically challenged, unaccompanied minors, homeless, or have mental health/substance use issues.

READ MORE: Shelter says no, taxi arrives anyway

Popove said he asked how the various agencies could work together to stop this practice of shuttling homeless people in taxis.

“I told them I wanted to be part of the solution,” Popove said.

There were promises made.

“There’s a breakdown in the system if people like this are falling through the cracks,” Popove said. “But overall it was a very positive meeting.”

Popove said he is still very concerned about the elderly homeless woman from Surrey who arrived at The Portal homeless shelter in a taxi on Feb. 22. She was later moved to the shelter at the Salvation Army, and was still there the last time the mayor checked.

“She should be somewhere with medical support,” Popove said.

What they need is “full disclosure” by health officials who call ahead to shelter providers in search of shelter beds that are free to take someone.

“They are supposed to send the patient’s file ahead of time so the shelters know what they are signing up for.

“Part of the problem is that shelter workers are not trained health professionals, and cannot provide medical care, so it is difficult setting up home health care in shelters — that is just the logistics of it.”


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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Two homeless patients from Surrey were sent in a taxi to the Salvation Army Shelter according to a March 5 letter from Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove to Fraser Health.(Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Two homeless patients from Surrey were sent in a taxi to the Salvation Army Shelter according to a March 5 letter from Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove to Fraser Health. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

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