09/05/05 — Charity workers in Wayne worried over gas prices

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Charity workers in Wayne worried over gas prices

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on September 5, 2005 1:46 PM

The high cost and limited availability of gas are worrying the people at Home Health and Hospice Care (3HC) and the WAGES Meals on Wheels programs.

"We got an e-mail earlier today from our state association," said Dean Lee, president and chief executive officer at 3HC. "They're trying to get a meeting with Medicare and Medicaid to see if we can get any relief."

3HC has more than 400 nursing aides and about 120 nurses and therapists who treat patients in 23 counties. The average miles per visit for the agency is 12, but some travel further.

As of Thursday, personnel were getting the same mileage reimbursement they usually get, and 3HC was looking at what it could offer them short-term.

"Long-term, we obviously can't afford to go up significantly," Lee said. "We're very much concerned."

Most of 3HC's patients are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, which "are not going to increase rates for services just because gas went up. We're a not-for-profit agency. Everything we make goes right back into the communities we're in."

3HC's gas challenges don't end with the staff.

The organization also has volunteers who travel to patients' home to sit with them, help with such daily activities as cooking and run errands.

The volunteers pay for their own gas, and Lee said it's too soon to know whether the gas situation will affect their service.

On Thursday, three of WAGES' Meals on Wheels volunteers called and said they were sorry, but they would be unable to deliver for awhile because of the price of gas.

"We called the Department of Socials Services" to fill in, Sutton said. "They're real good about sending people over. The county manager is good about volunteerism."

Some of the volunteers have discussed the gasoline situation with Brownie Doss, nutrition program administrator, and have said that they may not be able to make deliveries as often as they normally do.

"We're certainly worried," Sutton said.

WAGES does not reimburse its volunteers for expenses they incur doing their volunteer work. The volunteers deliver meals to people who are homebound.

They also provide companionship.

For a lot of the recipients, most of whom are elderly and none of whom can prepare food for themselves, the volunteer "is the only person they see all day," Mrs. Doss said. "We do ask that the volunteers come back and report to us."

If the volunteer notices that a Meals on Wheels recipient is not home, the program arranges to check on him. If necessary, the person's emergency contact number or 911 is called.

"Sometimes a volunteer notices that 'Mrs. So-and-So didn't have any heat in her house,'" Mrs. Doss said. "We may refer her to another agency to get another service."

Some meal recipients have said that they could not stay in their homes if they didn't have Meals on Wheels.

Today, in addition to a hot meal, recipients will food that Mrs. Doss bought in bulk at Sam's. She went shopping so she could be sure that, if deliveries could not be made next week, the 325 people who rely on Meals on Wheels would have something to eat.