Roads remain snowy and slick in downtown Victoria on Tuesday (Dec. 20). (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

Roads remain snowy and slick in downtown Victoria on Tuesday (Dec. 20). (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

Greater Victoria off-roaders step up to get hospital staff to work in snowstorm

A Vancouver Island Facebook group sprung into action to ensure hospitals have the staff they need

While many Greater Victoria residents were able to stay home or work remotely on Tuesday (Dec. 20) after a snowstorm coated the roads with a thick layer of the dreaded white stuff, hospital staff aren’t among them.

With public transit brought to a stand-still and many people unable to drive safely, a group of off-road driving enthusiasts jumped into action, offering rides to any hospital worker in need.

“I woke up to a bunch of people calling and texting me looking for a ride, looked out the window and saw all the snow, so I set out and started getting people in to work,” said Cameron Bell, who has driven nearly a dozen people to the hospital since he got started around 7 a.m. “It’s a cool way for us drivers to see each other and check out each other’s trucks, it’s also a fun way for us to give back to the community.”

Bell said he’s not exactly sure when the Vancouver Island Toyota 4×4 Facebook group started offering rides for health-care workers during storms, but he himself has been doing it for three years now.

It’s also hard for him to say how many drivers are out volunteering their time on a day like Tuesday, but he figures there are at least 10 or 15 driving in Greater Victoria.

READ MORE: No mail, flights cancelled, shelters open after heavy snowfall across Greater Victoria

Beyond providing an opportunity for the drivers to have a little bit of fun with their often heavily modified off-road vehicles in some rare south Island snow, Bell said the drivers are happy to volunteer their time helping hospital workers because many if not all of them have had experiences either being treated in hospital, or knowing someone who was.

“Myself, my father in law was sick with cancer and passed away a few weeks ago, and the only thing that kind of made it better was knowing the nurses were there to look after him. They have done so much for us, we have this opportunity to give back to them a little, so I’m happy to do it.”

In some cases, the rides to work provided by the Facebook group, which is active all across Vancouver Island, has proven to be especially helpful.

During an earlier dump of snow on Dec. 2, Kathy Thorpe was scheduled to be one of two nurses working the night shift at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. The other nurse wasn’t able to make it in, but Thorpe was thanks to a ride from one of the group’s volunteer drivers, saving the hospital from being left without any nurses.

“I almost got an applause when I arrived at the hospital,” said Thorpe. “It’s such a relief when you are looking outside and see all that snow … it’s one less thing to worry about, and you know you will be able to make it in. We are always short staffed these days, so it’s even more of a relief for everyone.”

The ride service is available for all hospital workers, and can be arranged by joining the VI Toyota 4×4 & Island Health Staff Transportation group on Facebook, and posting where you are looking to be picked up from and where you are looking to go. The group’s admins will help connect a driver with a passenger.

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@JSamanski
justin.samanski-langille@goldstreamgazette.com

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