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Thames Hospital wants crutches back, offers crutch amnesty

Thames Hospital wants its crutches back and offers crutch amnesty

Patients of Thames Hospital who no longer need their crutches are being asked to return them in a ‘crutch amnesty’.

The hospital’s emergency department gives out about 100 pairs of crutches a year to patients suffering from conditions including severe ankle sprains and fractures.

About 80 per cent of borrowed crutches are not being returned, says Thames Hospital emergency department charge nurse manager David James.

Each pair of crutches costs $37.50 and, with stocks low after the busy summer period, Mr James says Thames Hospital would welcome any returns during the crutch amnesty – no questions asked.

Thames Hospital used to charge patients a deposit to borrow crutches, but waived that a year or two ago as accounting administration costs outweighed the cost of purchasing crutches.

“It’s an honesty system with an expectation crutches will be returned when they are no longer being used,” says Mr James. “We take details, and receptionists try to follow up, but the return rate has been low. We realise we will never get 100 per cent back, but 20 per cent isn’t good enough.”

A crutch amnesty last year ago got a good response from the public, and Mr James is hoping people will likewise respond positively this time.

“We would like people to return (unused) crutches because they are needed for other patients,” says Mr James.

Crutches may be forgotten, stored in a garage or wardrobe, or in the possession of holidaymakers from outside the Thames region.

“We are a holiday destination, and a long way from home for some people,” admits Mr James. “After people have finished using them they feel it’s too far away to return (the crutches).”

He encourages out-of-towners to return crutches next time they are passing through Thames.

“We really do appreciate getting the crutches back because people often really go out of their way. It’s great because it means that someone else can use them in the future,” says Mr James.

Crutches returned in the past had been discovered hidden behind a wall during home renovations, or been used in someone’s vegetable garden to prop up tomato plants.

If crutches are worn or damaged Mr James says it’s possible they can be repaired.

Emergency Department receptionist Annette Sweet, who has worked at the hospital for 34 years, says people shouldn’t feel embarrassed about bringing back borrowed crutches, no matter how long they’ve had them or what condition they are in.

“A lot of people look a bit guilty when they bring them back. They’ve put them in the garage and forgot all about them,” she says.

“We say ‘thank you very much’ and mark them as returned, and off they go.”

“Some people live a long way away and may find it hard to bring their crutches back, but when they do, we really appreciate it.”

Crutches can be returned to the emergency department reception at Thames Hospital.


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