In a recent survey of organizations serving low-income breast cancer patients in Alameda County, 100% of respondents identified lack of financial resources and transportation as major barriers to access to treatment for uninsured and underinsured patients.
This comes as no surprise to the staff of the Breast Cancer Patient Navigation Program at Alameda Health System (AHS), the county’s safety net health system. “It’s heartbreaking,” states Ellen Rinehart, Program Manager. “All too often we see patients postpone their medical care solely because they have no-one to take them to and from their treatment appointments and no funds to pay for a taxi. And, for a patient undergoing treatment, public transportation is not an option. When a patient delays treatment, their cancer may progress to a higher stage, and then treatment may become less effective.”
Recognizing the significant need, AHS decided to establish a breast cancer patient transportation fund. The fund was launched in late 2013 through the generosity of Friends of Faith, an Oakland-based nonprofit, which provided initial grant funding.
A recent grant from the To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation, located in Marin County, allowed the fund to be significantly expanded.
As a result of these foundation partners’ support, AHS’s breast cancer patients who lack access to transportation services are now able to receive vouchers for free taxi or Paratransit rides. As one patient said, upon learning she qualified for the vouchers: “Now I don’t have to make a choice between paying for a taxi and putting food on the table. Without this, my choice would, of course, have been to feed my kids. I am so thankful.”