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Letter: Ferry policy flies in the face of common sense

From left, Ed Coxworthy Sr., Kay Coxworthy and Ed Coxworthy Jr. leave the elevator, walk down a short ramp and head for their vehicle after the MV Legionnaire docked in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Thursday. The senior couple has concerns for their safety with having to leave their vehicle during the 20-minute Bell Island ferry crossing.
From left, Ed Coxworthy Sr., Kay Coxworthy and Ed Coxworthy Jr. leave the elevator, walk down a short ramp and head for their vehicle after the MV Legionnaire docked in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Thursday. The senior couple has concerns for their safety with having to leave their vehicle during the 20-minute Bell Island ferry crossing.

 

According to the Canada Shipping Act, a short–run ferry is a vessel that regularly operates over the most direct water route between two points not more than five kilometres apart that is limited to the transport of unberthed passengers and cargo transport units carried on an open vehicle deck.

The Flanders and the Legionnaire have open vehicle decks.

With the British Columbia Ferry Service, passengers on ferries with open vehicle decks are recommended to return to their cars 20 minutes before arrival. The run from Bell Island-Portugal Cove is approximately 20 minutes.

Our provincial government policy is that “No passenger shall remain in their vehicle or on the vehicle deck during the transit of the ferry.”

This policy is detrimental and puts passengers in danger while travelling via the “state of the art” ferry system.

We have sick, elderly people going to St. John’s up to three times weekly for dialysis treatments. Dragging them to the elevator is unsafe, cruel and demeaning.

We have patients who have had major surgery just discharged from hospital forced to the passenger lounge to be made more uncomfortable.

This policy is detrimental and puts passengers in danger while travelling via the “state of the art” ferry system.

There is currently one passenger recovering from the effects of a stroke and receiving chemotherapy for bone cancer. He is forced to go to the ferry lounge.

There are patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation whose immune systems are compromised. To simply wear a mask will not prevent possible infections.

Yet for the safety of travellers on the ferry, this government believes in                endangering their health. The ferries offer no “safe” surroundings for ill patients. They are seated next to the general public who are coughing, sneezing and spreading germs to people who are already sick.

The Flanders’ lounge can seat only eight people. Given that some passengers require caregivers to assist them, some have to stand. This cannot be safe.

Some passengers can’t walk the distance from the elevator to the lounges. Providing wheelchairs does not diminish the suffering and indignity that a person suffers while waiting for a chair.

I have been told by a government official that the crew may assist passengers. Ferry crews are not trained to assist special needs passengers, nor should that be part of their duties. Not only do they put themselves in harm’s way, they subject themselves to possible legal liabilities.

The deck and stairs are slippery in inclement weather. An able-bodied person could fall, but for a person with a mobility disability, the possibility of a fall grows exponentially with the severity of the disability.

The government says safety is paramount. Who knows more about safety or has more concerns for the safety of a person than a doctor, who has a moral and legal obligation “to do no harm.” Overlooking a passenger’s doctor’s note is to put government on a slippery slope that could lead to lawsuits or worse still, a passenger’s death.

Following doctor’s orders and permitting passengers to remain in their vehicle would:

• Negate extra pain, suffering, health hazards and embarrassment to the affected individuals.

• Preserve privacy (in the name of human dignity) and courtesy for those who find themselves aged, incontinent or disabled.

In part of the draft on Information Bulletin No. 1: Vacating the Vehicle Deck, Returning to the Vehicle Deck (as posted in the waiting room), it states “Passengers with a mobility disability are to identify themselves to the vessel’s crew during the ticketing or boarding process. For a person who has a mobility disability that can’t get to the passenger lounge safely and with dignity, the risk involved with moving to the passenger lounge may exceed the risk involved with remaining in their vehicle. In such cases, the captain may allow the passenger to stay in their vehicle provided there are sufficient personnel available to assist if required and/or an alternate emergency evacuation plan is developed that recognizes the individual’s unique situation.”

I have a copy of that draft.

Common sense, not bureaucratic nonsense, should be the order of the day.

Do the right and just thing. Let passengers with a mobility disability remain in their vehicle.

 

Kathleen Crane

Bell Island

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