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More than 46 million Americans had no health insurance in 2005, approximately 15 percent of the population. These folks face severe challenges when they’re in the hospital, and when they’re released, especially if they need something like a wheelchair or a hospital bed. Most simply have to do without, which is why a group in Pennsylvania is stepping in to help. Jim Melchiorre reports.             

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Connellsville, Pa.)

What looks like a crowded storage room holds items that can literally be lifelines, when folks need them most.

Pat Galasso: “It was just a godsend. As soon as I left the hospital, I had a walker.”

Pat Galasso is making such progress from her knee surgery that she’s now substituting a cane from the United Methodist Men’s Hospital Equipment Loan Service. Wheelchairs, hospital beds, all sorts of health and rehabilitation items are donated, repaired, cleaned and then loaned out – at no charge.

Wes Boots/Volunteer, United Methodist Men’s Hospital Equipment Loan Service: “The primary area where we see the need is for people who do not meet the income or age requirements for government programs.”

When this service began, there was no such thing as universal, government-funded health insurance for seniors. But even in the age of Medicare, this program has not gone out of business since this community lies in one of the five poorest counties in Pennsylvania.

The Rev. Frank Sherman/ United Methodist Men’s Hospital Equipment Loan Service: “There are a number of persons who, because of job loss, no longer have hospitalization and this provides an opportunity to get equipment on a loan basis at no cost.”

Especially when time is precious.

Wes Boots/Volunteer, United Methodist Men’s Hospital Equipment Loan Service: “The opportunity to have a hospital bed, particularly in a hospice situation, where the person can come from a nursing home to their home to interact with their families in their final days is one that’s very important to people.”

Pat Galasso: “How has it helped me? I don’t know what I would have done without it. My husband has had nine surgeries and he walks with a crutch. He couldn’t have been any help to me. They’ve been kind to me and I appreciate it. They do a great job.”

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The men who run the service would like to share their equipment, and their expertise, with other groups who are interested in starting a similar program.

You can find out more about the equipment loan program by calling the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church at 724-628-3453.