Manitobans with mobility issues get phone service to find rides to COVID-19 vaccination appointments

Manitoba is partnering with the United Way on a service it hopes will get seniors and people with mobility issues to their COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

But the Opposition NDP says it doesn’t go far enough and the province is just adding another layer to the problem.

Health Minister Heather Stefanson announced Thursday that the province is partnering with the United Way’s 211 phone service.

The 24/7 service, available from anywhere in Manitoba and in more than 150 languages, is essentially a free information phone line to locate community-based social, health and government services.

It directs people to resources ranging from mental health services to financial support to food banks.

In this case, the government is counting on it finding transit options for people.

“Seniors can call a single number, no matter where they live in the province, to find out what transportation services might be available,” said Stefanson.

This is a phone line that lists options they already know and can’t afford– Uzoma Asagwara

Anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 appointment can call 211 with the date, time and location. The 211 navigators will help identify available options and connect callers with the transportation provider they choose, the province said in a news release.

Individuals are responsible for the cost of transportation, which could include handi-transit, a taxi or a shuttle service, the release said.

“For many people, knowing where to turn for help can be challenging and overwhelming. We know that 211 Manitoba provides a valuable service for Manitobans, especially during times of community crisis,” said Connie Walker, president and CEO of United Way Winnipeg.

“Now, seniors and others with mobility impairments can speak directly with a service navigator who will listen to their needs and work with them to identify transportation options and other resources in their community.”

Uzoma Asagwara, the Manitoba NDP health critic, said the province’s plan “does nothing to address vaccine inaccessibility for Manitobans who face mobility and income barriers.”

“Getting Manitobans vaccinated should be this government’s Number 1 priority,” they said in a statement responding to the announcement.

“Rather than give seniors and those with disabilities free transportation to vaccine appointments, this is a phone line that lists options they already know and can’t afford.

The government should work with community organizations to provide no-cost transportation options for Manitobans who face barriers in getting to vaccine appointments, the statement says.

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