Medical team goes the distance

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 10:24 04/06/2014

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Marlborough's free medical transfer service has celebrated its fourth anniversary this month, travelling the equivalent distance around the district of three and a half times round the equator.

Service spokesman Barry Masters said it carried about 5700 patients at an average of eight each working day, and each patient was carried an average of just over 25 kilometres to and from their medical appointments.

St John operates the medical transfer shuttle as a free service to people of all ages who need help to attend health-related appointments at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim, doctors' surgeries, optometrists, physiotherapists, drug and alcohol treatment, podiatrists, and other health services.

It collects people from their homes within a 50km radius of Blenheim, from Picton, Havelock, Seddon, the Wairau Valley, the Sounds, as well as Renwick and Blenheim, and takes them back to their homes. It does not take people to Nelson.

The service was valued by the people who used it, Masters said.

Many of its users were regulars, so a close and friendly relationship existed between crew and patient, which could make a sometimes stressful journey "a bit more enjoyable and relaxing", he said.

"A companion is always welcome if there is seating room in the vehicle."

Two first aid-trained crew members were on board, who came from a group of about 17 volunteers. Masters said many of them had been operating the shuttle since day one.

Yesterday, it was Rod Hill and Denise Harding working, and they said they had carried about eight patients on their shift between 8am and 5.30pm.

Meanwhile, area committee member Graeme Faulkner said work was still being done to set up a medical shuttle service to Nelson Hospital.

A meeting between St John, the Public Health Organisation, and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board was held last Thursday to discuss the proposal.

Faulkner said the group wanted to go the next step towards re-establishing the shuttle to Nelson.

It was seeking statistics from the DHB on how many outpatients there were, to assess the need for a service between 10am and 3pm. It was expected to take a couple of weeks to get the information

"We're still keen to do it. This is one of my passions in life, this. I'm going to keep digging," Faulkner said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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