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St John needs help

PETRICE TARRANT
Last updated 11:50 20/11/2012
St John
PETRICE TARRANT
SEEKING HELP: Raymond Dempsey says Dargaville’s paid St John officers are crying out for volunteers to help them staff the ambulances.

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Residents could be at risk this summer if the community doesn't answer St John's desperate plea for volunteers.

Station officer Sally Parkinson says Dargaville has fewer than half the number of desired active volunteers. It is a struggle to man the second ambulance for a serious accident, she says.

Each shift requires one of the station's four paid officers as well as a volunteer but times are tough.

"This is an ongoing struggle we continually face. Lack of volunteers means the main ambulance is often single crewed during the day and this leaves us at high risk for the looming summer season."

A past lack of volunteers has affected ability to respond properly to serious accidents.

The workload has increased over the last few years and now, if a patient transfer to Whangarei is required, there will be no cover for Dargaville at all.

"We've got the second ambulance - we just don't have the people to drive it," she says.

There are 14 shifts a week to fill and Mrs Parkinson says Dargaville needs to increase its number of active volunteers from eight to between 16 and 20.

She says most volunteers can only do one shift a week and need time off too.

Getting volunteers to man the ambulances during the day is the most difficult because of work commitments, she says.

"Even mothers with children at school can help out from 9am to 3pm, that would lessen the burden on the roster and be better than having nobody," Mrs Parkinson says.

"We don't expect everyone to be able to do a 12-hour shift, we can work around other commitments."

If volunteers live within five to 10 minutes of the station they can respond from home and there is accommodation at the station.

Volunteers range from 18 to 60 years of age and Mrs Parkinson says being one can lead on to a fulltime career - this has happened twice under her watch.

The requirements are simple but the effects can be immense and life-saving, she says.

Contact the Dargaville Station on 09 439 8444 or Sally Parkinson on 09 439 8501 if you want to volunteer.

Volunteers play a huge role in the running of the Dargaville community. Call 09 439 0607 or email dargaville.editor@snl.co.nz with your story.

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