Winnipeg cab driver says patient safety part of the job

While one Winnipeg city councillor says he has questions about how the province will compel cab drivers to ensure patients discharged from hospital get home safely, a veteran cabbie says it's always been part of the job.
Paramedics tried to revive a man found collapsed outside his home Dec. 29 after being discharged from Grace Hospital and sent home in a cab. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the man died and it is looking into the incident. (Shawn Zemla)

While one Winnipeg city councillor says he has questions about how the province will compel cab drivers to ensure patients discharged from hospital get home safely, a veteran cabbie says it's always been part of the job.

"We do always," Unicity Taxi driver Darshen Singh said Saturday. "This is not a new thing for us." 

Manitoba Health Minister Erin Selby said Friday the government plans to develop a new protocol for cab drivers to ensure patient safety, after two people in separate incidents died outside their homes after being sent home from hospital in cabs recently.

David Silver, 78, died on his porch on Dec. 31.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said Friday in a second case just days before, another man was driven by taxi to a residence on Arlington Street. He collapsed and died on Dec. 29. 

The WRHA is investigating both incidents.​

No managers from either Unicity Taxi or Duffy's Taxi were available to comment.

Singh said he didn't know the details of either case, but he said drivers typically keep a watchful eye as passengers head home.

"We stop the car. We watch always, he's inside properly because we can't go inside because the taxicab board says you don't go inside the home."

Singh said cabbies have very strict rules about how they can assist passengers, such as how to touch people who aren't steady on their feet.

Some have been afraid they will be accused of inappropriate behaviour.

But he said it's also only natural for a driver to provide customers with good service.

"We always try because if I help, they will give us the good tip, too," he said. "We can make money, too."

Questions about province's coming protocol for cab drivers

Winnipeg city Coun. Harvey Smith said he supports the province's plan to make cab drivers responsible for patients' safety up to the front door of their homes, but he's not sure how it will be enforced.

"I don't know how we're going to be able to force cab drivers (to do that)," he said. "We'll have a discussion, we'll see what comes up."

Smith, who also sits on the province's Taxicab Board, said it's not like it used to be.

"I remember the days when you called a cab (and) they came up to your door," he said. "Now they don't like to get out the side of their cab."

Smith said it's part of the driver's responsibility to see to the passenger's safety. He doesn't believe drivers should be able to profit from the service.

"They should realize what they're doing, especially when they are taking (people) from the hospital," he said. "I think it is outrageous that this occurred."

In Saskatoon, cab drivers are not responsible for passengers returning from hospital.

Linda Walker, spokesperson for Saskatoon's Regional Health Authority, said medical staff can't instruct cab drivers to do anything. 

"I don't know how we could," she said. "They are not our employees."

Walker added Saskatoon's Regional Health Authority encourages patients who are elderly or whose health is compromised to stay overnight in hospital.

She said they do not typically discharge such patients after midnight or in extreme cold, but rather wait till morning and until someone has been confirmed to be at the residence and aware the patient will be arriving.

And then, only if the patient has a key to the residence, and wishes to go home.

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