Hospital visitors aren’t always in the best of moods.
But at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, 18 volunteers do their best to lighten the load, at least the burden the walk from the main parking lot places on visitors’ feet.
From 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, the 16 men and two women who drive the hospital’s SaintMobile golf carts transport hospital visitors and patients alike between their cars to the hospital and back.
Two carts are in use every day, with the third in reserve, said Harold Shreve, the volunteer who coordinates the SaintMobile program.
But SaintMobile drivers don’t only make runs between the main parking lot and the hospital. Doctors’ offices near the hospital, the Hospitality House and any of the hospital’s various parking lots also are possible destinations.
SaintMobile drivers keep track of each run and how many passengers they carry. Just about a year ago, Shreve said, the 10-year-old service topped the 1 million passenger mark.
“Our average right now is probably just a little over 400 passengers a day,” he said.
A program on the go
In 2011, in fact, SaintMobile drivers provided 104,640 rides for passengers.
They don’t keep track of their mileage, Shreve said, but SaintMobile drivers drive so many miles they manage to wear out a golf cart every year. They buy a new one every year, so the carts are on a three-year replacement cycle.
“I assure you at the end of three years they are ready to be replaced,” he said.
Comparing the SaintMobiles to carts actually used at a golf course, Shreve said, “We, in one year, get about as much use out of one of them as they do in three years at a golf course.”
The electric carts are recharged daily, Shreve said.
“We run ’em all day and charge ’em all night,” he said.
The SaintMobiles are not strictly used for transport to and from St. Mary’s, Shreve said. The carts and drivers take part in other events around town, including March of Dimes March for Babies, Relay for Life, United Way Chili Cookoff, Cherokee Strip Parade and the Feed the Neighborhood backpack giveaway at Crosslin Park.
“We do a lot of things with them rather than just transport people to and from the hospital,” Shreve said.