Steamship Authority amends medical travel policy

Change comes after couple was forced to take Patriot home.

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The Steamship Authority board acknowledged a need to change its policy for medical related travel. - Rich Saltzberg

In the wake of the medical ordeal of Billy Gazaille and Rachel Self, the Steamship Authority board voted unanimously Tuesday to amend its medical travel policy to better accommodate family members and caregivers facilitating health-related transportation.

As The Times reported in June, Gazaille and Self faced logistical challenges in May on a trip from a Boston hospital following open-heart surgery Gazaille underwent. Self was unable to secure vehicle medical passage on a SSA ferry in order to pick up Gazaille at the hospital. She resorted to taking the passenger-only Patriot boat Quickwater, and using a car kept in Falmouth. The car was not as spacious as the pickup truck she had intended to take over on the SSA. And after Gazaille was discharged from the hospital and taken back to Falmouth, he wound up having an exposed and uncomfortable ride on the Quickwater, as opposed to a more comfortable ride in a pickup cab on the car deck of an SSA ferry. 

At a previous Port Council meeting, Self advocated for a change of policy. The Port Council went on to recommend changes to SSA travel policy. 

“Back in May we ended up having an Island resident [who] had failed to receive preferential boarding for a vehicle because … the person requiring the services wasn’t actually in the vehicle,” SSA general manager Robert Davis told the board ahead of the vote. Subsequently, Davis said he reviewed SSA travel policy.

“We think there’s some adjustment that needs to be made to it — specifically to add to that individuals who are traveling for medical reasons …” Davis went on to specify this would constitute immediate family members or caregivers who are responsible for transporting those in medical need off-Island or on-Island. 

“For example, traveling off-Island for the purpose of returning that individual to his or her Island-based place of residence or medical facility,” he said.

The board did not debate the policy change and simply took a vote. 

In other business, board chairman Jim Malkin, after touching upon the recent change in SSA mask policy, asked Davis “whether we have prevented people from boarding the buses or the vessels if they are not wearing masks?” 

“At this point I’m not aware of any of those instances,” Davis said. Davis went on to say, “On the vessels themselves, if they don’t have a mask, we request that they go to the outside weather decks.”

Malkin said he thought SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll recently summed up the challenges of mask enforcement well. “Sometimes you just can’t prevent people from acting like 5-year-olds,” he recalled Driscoll saying. 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Bob Davis speaks:

    “ In other business, board chairman Jim Malkin, after touching upon the recent change in SSA mask policy, asked Davis “whether we have prevented people from boarding the buses or the vessels if they are not wearing masks?”
    DAVIS:
    “At this point I’m not aware of any of those instances,” Davis said. Davis went on to say, “On the vessels themselves, if they don’t have a mask, we request that they go to the outside weather decks.”

    Wow. Talk about being disconnected from reality. I’ll be writing our rep — Davis says, “I’m not aware of any problems” — holy highwater! It’s bizarre — like living in opposite land. Not to mention SSA employees and making. Statement like this makes it perfectly clear how distanced and separate from actual operations Bob Davis is. Sean Driscoll needs to do better as well. He acquiesced.

  2. Glad they made the changes for medical passage.

    NO MASK, NO RIDE, PERIOD, END OF STORY. Unless you have proof from a DOCTOR, not a chiropractor or an ob/gyn (like the crazy lady at Starbucks who was refused service)
    It is mandated for traveling on a public service at this time in this state, is it not?
    We have come to far with all the shutdowns and loss of jobs, to go backwards with this virus. We have lost too many people in this state alone to this terrible disease, we can wear our masks and wash our hands and social distance until this virus is no longer a threat.

  3. Yes, the SSA bigwigs are out of touch with what really happens when traveling on the boats. People aren’t social distancing or wearing masks or sitting outside like they are supposed to.
    So again, NO MASK, NO RIDE.

  4. Hey MV Times, maybe help us Islanders know when there are public SSA meetings so we don’t have to keep blowing up the comments section and can tell these idiots in person how their policies make life harder than it needs to be for Islanders?

    • You should sign up for our daily newsletter, The Minute. We have a “meetings” section daily where we post the next day’s meetings with agendas. We include the SSA board, which generally meets monthly.

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