By Kirra Grimes

A LEONGATHA resident living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and relying on taxis for transport to medical appointments has spoken out about his negative experiences in the hopes of bringing about improvements to the service.
John Cashin contacted the Sentinel-Times last week after experiencing multiple incidents of “unreliable” service from the region’s only taxi company, South Coast Taxis – who did not respond to requests for comment.
In one incident, a couple of months ago, John says he waited outside Korumburra Hospital for two hours after booking a taxi to take him home to Leongatha.
After repeatedly contacting the taxi company to ask about the delay, only to be told the taxi was “still coming” or “on its way,” John says he finally gave up and contacted a private car service to get him home in time to receive a shower and a meal from his visiting carers.
More recently, just a couple of weeks ago, John booked a taxi to pick him up from the taxi rank on Bair Street in Leongatha.
He says he waited there for an hour before resorting to wheeling himself two kilometres home in his wheelchair, once again fearing he would miss out on his main meal of the day if he kept on waiting.
What John wants from South Coast Taxis is simple: “Better service.”
And he said he felt the need to speak out publicly after having no luck bringing about change by contacting local MPs.
“Because it’s a private company, they won’t touch it,” he said. “So, I don’t know what else to do. When you book a taxi, you expect it there, not just when they feel like it.
“I don’t like having to cancel and push myself home in a wheelchair. It’s hard work. And with MS, it’s even worse.”
John suggested increased competition in the Leongatha area might prompt South Coast Taxi to “pull their socks up,” but in the meantime, he’s given up relying on the service to get him to appointments on time.
“It was a heck of a lot better service when it was based in Leongatha, but now that it’s all based in [Bass Coast], the time it takes just to get to Korumburra from Leongatha is ridiculous, because they’ve got a shortage of taxis, and they take too many bookings at once and when the car goes out of the area, they can’t get another one.
“I’ve booked in for my flu shot and I won’t be using a taxi to get there,” John said. “I’ll be using the private car service but there’s got to be another option when that’s not available,” he said.

RSL shares concerns
Leongatha RSL’s venue manager Anne Davies and assistant manager Ricky McNaughton were excited to pick up the keys to a shiny new eight-seater courtesy vehicle from Edney’s Leongatha recently, saying they were “sick of people having to wait for taxis”.
Anne and Ricky said the venue had been forced to take matters into its own hands by investing in the courtesy bus, as the taxi situation, including lengthy delays and unreliable service, had gotten so bad over the last 12 months that RSL staff had been using their own cars to take customers home in the absence of a safe alternative.
“I’m sure they’re doing the best they can but it’s not enough for what we need,” said Ricky of the local taxi service, suggesting the persistent lack of availability of taxis was because “they service too wide an area”.