Compassionate Retiree Finds Joy Going Back To Work at SMD

Maggie NishimuraMaggie Nishimura has worked within SMD’s Wheelchair services and Parking Permit program for the past eight years as an Administrative Assistant. Coming out of retirement was an easy choice for Maggie, “After I retired I thought to myself, I can’t stay at home,” she jokes. “I started looking for a part-time job and this one caught my attention as it required that I speak French and I’m bilingual so it was a great fit,” she says. “Plus, I came from a business and healthcare background so it was nice.”

Before SMD, Maggie worked in a personal care home. “I was familiar with clients who required service, have health issues and are aging,” she exclaims. Prior to that, she spent 25 year’s working in retail.

When she started as a receptionist at 1111 Winnipeg Avenue, the previous Wheelchair service location, there was only one person answering the telephone for repair requests.  Nowadays, thanks to improvement changes, there are three Intake Clerks plus a Scheduling Clerk who plans our four external Wheelchair Technician’s days that are on the road five days a week. These changes reflect the growing population of wheelchair users that require service. Funding is provided by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

For over thirty years, SMD has provided children and adults in Manitoba with essential mobility through the loan of manual and motorized wheelchairs. As mentioned, we have 4 external Wheelchair Technicians who visit client’s homes assisting with repairs plus 3 in-house Wheelchair Technicians who work on wheelchair customizations and repairs.  Additionally, we are able to handle some calls in the rural areas as well. In house repairs require an appointment.

Some people just show up and ask “Can I buy a wheelchair?” Maggie explains. “It’s not that simple, there’s a process.” She informs people about the intake process and if they are a community-living Manitoba resident requiring a wheelchair for at least six months, to first consult a health care professional (i.e. Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Family Doctor) to determine whether or not they are eligible.

Maggie highlights SMD receives on average 20 wheelchair applications per day. “Furthermore, we can get up to 20 calls a day for repairs,” she adds. “When a wheelchair is not working, that is their legs. Their anxious to have it repaired in a timely manner and we’re able to accommodate that. I think that is a good thing about the program.”

SMD has researched what other provinces have done and Maggie highlights, “We have a very quick turnaround. In some provinces they have to wait up to 4 weeks. I think SMD is pretty top notch.” Depending on the wheelchair, a manual one can be sent out within a week while others within 15 days. Specialized manual wheelchairs do take a bit longer.  Depending on the configuration of a power wheelchair, it can take up to 2 months.

Over time, processes have improved as well within our Parking Permit program. There are three staff answering phones and responding to client’s needs. Currently, there are over 15,000 Parking Permit passes issued annually. “Our staff take pride in good customer service and fast turnaround in issuing or renewing permits,” she adds. The processing cost for a parking permit is only $15, whether clients need it for a temporary length of time or for a permanent time renewable every 3 years.

When asked what SMD means for her she says, “Just being part of an organization that is able to provide a necessity for people who are disabled is a huge benefit.”
Lastly, she adds, “I enjoy coming to work every day. It’s never the same.”

SMD can’t thank Maggie enough for her continuous support, hard-work and contributions she’s made over the years.

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