Couple launch medical transportation service

Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer June 11, 2013 08:22 pm

Lisa and Jimmy Dofflemyer are offering transportation services for Curry county residents  with medical or mental disabilities. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Lisa and Jimmy Dofflemyer are offering transportation services for Curry county residents with medical or mental disabilities. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
An elderly woman who’d suffered a stroke, has hearing impairments and is legally blind needed a ride to Medford to visit her physician last week.

Calling an ambulance was out of the question, as she didn’t need emergent care. A taxi could have picked her up and dropped her off — for about $500 round-trip — but likely wouldn’t provide the extra care she needs while en route.

A youth with autism — boasting high energy levels and a short attention span — needs a ride this week to central California. He won’t sit still in a taxi; and the care he needs doesn’t warrant an ambulance transport.

That’s where Statewide MediTrans, the business Lisa and Jimmy Dofflemyer recently started, comes into play.

“It’s a whole ‘nother ball game,” she said. “People with (medical and mental) disabilities end up doing nothing, so they’re stuck.”

The couple recently moved from central California to Brookings, and has talked with local hospital and clinic personnel, assisted living facilities, veterans’ organizations and others to let them know there is an alternative way to get anywhere in the West those with medical conditions need to go.

It could be someone going into surgery in San Francisco who’s going to need a ride home. It could be a disabled veteran who needs a ride to the airport in Portland. They’ll pick up prescriptions for the housebound — even take someone with special needs to a family reunion.

“This is what sets us apart from a taxi service,” Lisa said. “We’re not here to be in competition with anyone. We’re filling a gap.”

She said more than half the calls for a Cal-Ore Life Flight ambulance are for people who don’t need an emergency response, but have no one else to call. Taxi drivers might not know what to do with someone who has limited mobility but needs to have a check-up at their doctor’s office.

“We’re not just door-to-door,” Lisa said. “We get them out of their beds and put them back in their beds.”

They escort a patient into a clinic and ensure they are in the hands of the correct physician. They take notes for those who have difficulty understanding and pass information to caregivers. They will retrieve a patient being released by the hospital after arriving there by ambulance.

With their medical experience, they know that if someone has a feeding tube, they’d better take corners slowly, as sudden movement can inflict pain in those patients. 

They understand that someone might need a little extra time — to take a breath, catch their balance, evaluate their surroundings — while being escorted to the van. They know a mentally ill patient could change the entire environment in the vehicle en route to his or her specialist — and they’re prepared to deal with anything that might present.

She likes to say they have the “heart to know,” as their experience has taught them to notice if someone loses color, or is becoming apprehensive.

“It’s those little things that make such a huge difference, from the moment we make contact until we take them back home.” Lisa said. “We’re taking care of them with their very best interests in mind; we support them mentally, physically and emotionally.”

Lisa has an education in early childhood development, and has worked extensively with the mentally and physically impaired population. Her husband is an EMT, and has years of experience transporting people with medical conditions to court hearings, medical clinics — wherever they needed to go.

“You can’t pay a taxi to do that,” Lisa said. “We go that extra mile.”

MediTrans has both a van that can accommodate a wheelchair or gurney, and a passenger vehicle for those who can sit on their own. The larger van can be set up to transport someone who has had surgery and must remain on their back or side.

“If there’s any kind of medical situation, we’re better equipped to deal with it,” Lisa said. “It takes a certain kind of person to do this, and we have huge, compassionate hearts. If you’re an older patient, we will think of you as our grandparent. If you’re a kid, we’ll think of you as ours. While in our care, you are our family member, and we will treat you as such.”

Costs vary depending on the time spent traveling and waiting, the destination and the patient’s disability. A trip for someone who is ambulatory can cost $195 one-way and $260 round-trip. The cost for someone with more profound disabilities and who might need a gurney and an extra medical attendant or IVs can add at least $50. A simple errand in town is generally $15.

When the couple started vacationing to Oregon 10 years ago, they fell in love with Brookings. Coincidentally, Brookings has the perfect demographics for the services they offer — and no other service like it is available within a three-hour drive.

When Jimmy drove for a similar company in an area with 70,000 residents, they had 10 vehicles transporting patients from place to place all day. Those transports didn’t include the ones done by competing companies.

“We’re not door to door; we’re bedside to bedside,” Lisa said. “Anywhere, any distance, any time.”