Medstar Transportation offers $1 rides for local healthcare workers, support staff

Medstar Transportation (1)
Courtesy: Medstar Transportation

YAKIMA, Wash. — A Yakima-based medical transportation company is offering low-cost rides for healthcare workers wanting to get to or from an area hospital at any time, day or night.

For just $1 convenience fee, anyone working at a hospital can request a ride from Medstar Transportation, including those working in custodial, administrative, security and other non-medical positions.

“We want to make sure that hospitals are supported and that the healthcare heroes know that services like ours are there to serve them and help them when they maybe have a really hard day or a really busy day or just need a reliable ride,” CEO Justin Bergener said.

Bergener said the company felt it was important to offer this service to all “health heroes,” including those dedicated to supporting medical workers — including medical transportation workers like themselves, who may not always be recognized as essential.

“We want to serve them; we recognize them,” Bergener said. “We see them because we are one of them and that’s what makes it easy for us.”

If healthcare workers are exhausted after a long day of work or want to leave their vehicles at home for their family to use, they can request an on-demand ride any day of the week at any time.

Medstar Transportation launched the program at the end of March and plans to continue the discounted service for at least the next month.

“I know a lot of people have really appreciated it,” Bergener said.

The company provides the rides for free, but the flat $1 fee is charged to take care of credit card processing fees and software costs, as well as verifying the identity of the person asking for a ride.

Bergener said it’s a safer, more affordable alternative for healthcare workers needing on-demand transportation; prior to the pandemic, drivers were already supplied with personal protective equipment, disinfecting spray and wipes in order to transport ill patients.

Unlike many rideshare employees, Medstar Transportation drivers are professionally trained, have paid sick leave and can take other paid time off; Bergener said this means employees who feel sick can take time off to recover, rather than pushing through and risking exposing others.

Additionally, the company has created its own cleaning and safety recommendations for non-emergency medical transportation services based on what the Centers For Disease Control recommends for ambulances.

Bergener said every ride now takes an extra seven minutes, which is allocated for drivers to disinfect their vehicles after every trip.

To qualify for a ride, a person must be working at a healthcare facility and be within a 15-mile radius of a city center in Medstar Transportation’s service area, which covers much of the Pacific Northwest, including all of Washington state and select cities in Oregon and Idaho.

Riders can request immediate transport or schedule a ride by calling 1-800-236-2011 or by downloading the GOIN’ app on their smartphone and pay using a credit or debit card.

Similar to other rideshare apps like Lyft or Uber, the GOIN’ app allows users to see where Medstar Transportation vehicles are and when they should be arriving at the user’s location.

Another service Medstar Transportation provides is rides for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and require non-emergency transportation, including coming home from the hospital.

Bergener said some COVID-19 patients have been denied transport by other rideshare services, but that Medstar Transportation is equipped to offer them safe rides to wherever they need to go for their medical care.

Those rides require payment either through private pay or Medicaid, but Bergener said it’s significantly cheaper than riding in an ambulance and frees those vehicles up for trauma and other emergent situations.

“Ambulances still need to be ready for true emergencies,” Bergener said.

COVID-19 patients are transported in dedicated vehicles that are not used to transport the general population, with barriers installed between the front and back of the vehicle.

Bergener said drivers who volunteer to transport positive patients do not drive around non-COVID-19 patients and are paid hazard pay for their work.