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Wheelchair repair delays shock Disability Society

The Disability Society has been approached by one of its members regarding a very simple repair to their wheelchair that has been outstanding for the past 11 days.

“We were shocked to hear that the repair of GHA equipment in the community now appears to have been handed over to a private company,” said a statement from the society.

“As far as the Society is aware there has been no announcement about privatising this service. The wheelchair in question developed a puncture early on a Friday morning.”

“The usual course of action for such a simple issue was to take the chair for repair in-house at the hospital. This twenty-minute repair would then be done during the day as they are very aware that a wheelchair is a vital part of a user’s life.”

However, on this occasion the person concerned was informed that equipment is no longer maintained or repaired in-house and that they needed to approach their Occupational Therapist.”

The statement added that it was luck that the occupational therapist was available.

A report to the new company was made and marked as urgent. However, the member was told to wait at home for them to come to make the repair. After several hours the OT was contact again and, to expedite matters, sourced an inner tube.

She then contacted the new company to be told that they were too busy and would not be able to address the situation until after the long weekend.

“This obviously is not an acceptable situation as it removes the independence of the wheelchair user. Eventually the chair had to be taken to a local bicycle repair shop,” said the statement.

“It was discovered the puncture had been made by a spur on the inside of the tyre which, two days before, had been put on by a Spanish representative from a company that had provided two new wheels. A new tyre, which was not the correct size as it was meant for a bicycle, had to be purchased by the wheelchair user to allow the wheelchair to be used over the long weekend.”

However, an incorrect tyre means the wheelchair is not only slightly lopsided but the brake on one side does not function as the tyre is not wide enough.

After the long weekend it was again reported to the new company by the OT with an update that a new tyre was required. However, when the representative arrived to make the repair, they said they were unaware of the update and therefore did not have the new tyre that was required.

They stated that the appointment would be rescheduled for the following day and both tyres would be changed.

“This did not happen and the OT was once again contacted by the wheelchair user; after speaking to the private company, the OT was then informed that they did not have spare tyres and therefore they were unsure when they could address the problem,” said the statement from the society.

“This begs the question as to why a company, who it appears are not in a position to fulfil their contracted duty, have been employed?”

“Why do they not even have the basic spares in stock when they been trusted with the important job of maintaining vital GHA equipment?”

“Similar issues that were addressed by the GHA in house company were solved on the same day they were reported.”

“The fact that this new system is adding extra work to an already overworked Occupation Therapy department is also of concern.”

“The Disability Society has been informed that this is not an isolated incident and therefore call for the GHA investigate the whole situation as a matter of urgency,” the statement added.

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