Smithfield business offers vaccine appointment rides 

Published 6:26 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Over the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has shown how small disadvantages can be big barriers to health.

Not tech savvy? You may have a hard time understanding how to get the latest local and regional health-related news and information online. Busy with work or kids during the day? You might not have time to spend hours on the phone to schedule a COVID-19 test or set up a vaccine appointment.
And now, as vaccine access expands, a new issue — some people don’t have transportation to go get it. Valerie Artis sees that need firsthand and is stepping up to help. She owns Val’s Medical Transportation Service, a Smithfield-based non-emergency medical transport business.

“I know this area is rural, the pandemic is going on, everybody is trying to get a vaccine and you’ve got some people that just don’t have a ride and I know they don’t have a ride because they call me,” Artis said. “I got so many calls I started thinking, ‘My mission is helping people,’ and this business is really my mission.”

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Sometimes, Artis said, people just need to get a few miles down the road but don’t have transportation. So effective immediately, anyone who lives in Smithfield, Carrollton or Windsor can get a free ride within 50 miles between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. if they don’t have any other way to get to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

People who need a ride to their vaccine appointment will be worked into the regular schedule of paid customers.

Artis, an Isle of Wight County native and former star athlete, started the medical transportation company about a decade ago. “I didn’t know I wanted to get into this business,” she said. Along with her husband Preston, Artis owns and continues to operate P&V Artis Hauling, a dump truck business. But a decade ago, she wanted to expand her business opportunities to boost their income. She saw an ad in The Smithfield Times looking for drivers. She called to inquire about the opportunity.

The woman on the other end of the phone explained that the job was driving people to and from non-urgent medical appointments. “I said, ‘I didn’t think they paid anybody to do anything like that.’ The next question I asked was, ‘How much is the pay?’ The person was like ‘Well, I don’t know but I can give you the boss lady’s number.’”

Artis called the boss the same day, and during that conversation, she was hired over the phone. The company gave her two vans. She was put in charge of operations in the Smithfield area for the business, which was based in Franklin at the time.

Less than a year later, the owner said because the volume of customers in the Smithfield area wasn’t what they anticipated, Artis was welcome to take over the business and continue running it on her own. She decided to go with it. Today, Artis has seven vehicles and employs seven people, including herself, in her eponymously named medical transportation business.

“This is my way of being able to give back a little more. I just want to be of help to those who need the help.”

To request transportation to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, contact Artis at 757-663-9501.