03/14/05 — Hospital offers part-time shuttle service

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Hospital offers part-time shuttle service

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 14, 2005 1:59 PM

Visitors to Wayne Memorial Hospital shouldn't be surprised to see a golf cart with a flashing strobe light making the rounds in the hospital's rear parking lot.

A "courtesy cart" was introduced last week to shuttle patients and visitors from the parking lot to the emergency and admitting entrances.

Volunteers are being trained to drive the six-seat vehicle. It will be their job to patrol the parking lot, offering people a ride if they need one. Donna Archer, the hospital's director of volunteer services, said the cart will initially run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Ms. Archer said the idea for the service originated with the hospital's executive staff in hopes of improving customer service.

"A lot of hospitals are doing this," she said.

Tom Bradshaw, the vice-president of operations at the hospital, said he has long been a supporter of the idea.

"It comes from looking at our patient satisfaction surveys," Bradshaw said. "Long before we had the additional parking, we had a lot of complaints about inadequate parking."

Even after the parking lot was expanded, he said, parking spaces were not always close to the building.

"We started looking at alternative ways to accommodate folks," he said. "We're really looking at what our customers want and need, trying to address them as best we can."

If more volunteers come forward to drive the cart, then its hours can be expanded, Mrs. Archer said.

The hospital weighed the advantages of a gas-propelled versus battery-operated cart and decided on the latter, Bradshaw said. Some of the bugs being worked out now pertain to keeping the battery charged sufficiently to keep the cart running throughout the day.

"We'll learn in a few months what works, what doesn't work," Bradshaw said.

Which is why Mrs. Archer said, "For now, it's not a guaranteed service, especially during inclement weather."

The cart has a zippered enclosure to protect riders from the wind, she said, but does not have heat or windshield wipers.

It does have other safety features, though, Bradshaw said. In addition to the flashing strobe light to alert people to its presence, it has rear view mirrors and seatbelts for the riders. The only request from hospital staff, said Mrs. Archer, is that there be no smoking in the vehicle.