Ferries’ assured-loading permit project slowly rolling out

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 21 2017

BC Ferries and the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committtee (FAC) continue to work on creating a smooth sailing system for those needing medically assured loading to get off Gabriola Island for medical purposes.

At the fall FAC meeting this past Wednesday, Nov. 15, FAC members asked BC Ferries when or if there would be any kind of information provided to the public on how people could get permits to use those spaces.

While the spots at the front of the line have been painted, and a sign erected stating the area is for assured loading, this summer saw plenty of confusion and miscommunication on who was able to utilize that space.

Peggy Richardson has been the Gabriola FAC member involved in getting the spots put in place.

She said because people knew she was affiliated with the project, she was questioned quite a bit this year.

“There has been public speculation on what those spots are for.”

Chris Morris, BCF VP of Terminal Operations, said the permit tags for people to hang from their rear-view mirrors have been made.

Darin Guenette, BC Ferries Director of Communications, explained the process to get a tag.

A person qualifies for the tag if their medical specialist asserts that being in the lineup will cause undue harm to the person because of their medical condition.

The specialist [or the person’s regular physician] will have a communication line to the BC Ferries Customer Service staff. (Guenette said it would be a different line than the one used by members of the public.)

BC Ferries staff will then draft a letter to be mailed to the specialist who will provide it to the patient.

The patient then takes the letter to the Nanaimo Harbour terminal and is given a tag.

Asked if it was possible that the tag could be mailed directly to the specialist or the patient, Guenette said he would need to check with Customer Service staff to answer that.

Morris asked for clarification on who the Gabriola FAC wanted included as being able to get those permits.

Richardson said a list was circulated of everyone who had petitioned to get permits - there were 32 organizations - and was then shortened to 11 which were medical related.

“It did not drift into commercial use.”

Morris said such programs take the lead from whatever the local FAC requests.

Mark Wilson, BC Ferries VP of Strategic Planning & Community Engagement, said that on another route, the FAC asked that the garbage truck be given priority.

Speaking from the floor, Nancy Rowan, Coordinator of Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, said that she believed homecare nurses should be included.

Under the current system “we lose a tremendous amount of time from homecare nurses. 

“They have a high case load, Monday to Friday. Especially in the summer, they can’t count on the 3:45 to Nanaimo, which they need to take. What has happened in some cases is they have to catch the earlier ferry. 

“So patients suffer due to a shorter workday for the nurses.”

FAC Chair Steve Earle said the priority of the Gabriola FAC is people with medical needs, and that the list of eligible persons for permits should include the homecare nurses.

Richardson said there has not been any back and forth since the spring FAC meeting where this was also discussed. Not even that the tags were being produced.

“It would have been great to know that was going on - that was happening on the other side of a very high wall - it would have been great to say to people BC Ferries are working on it.”