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.