Red Cross wants regional shuttle

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 14:41 25/08/2014

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Red Cross has submitted a proposal for a shuttle service between Blenheim and Nelson Hospital transporting the unwell and vulnerable.

The charity is in talks with Nelson Marlborough District Health Board to run a timetabled service three times a week but its long-term future is dependent on buoyant patient numbers and securing board funding.

The proposal said a bus would leave early in the morning and return in the afternoon.

Patients could be grouped according to their appointment times to avoid lengthy waits at Nelson.

Red Cross service centre co-ordinator Gayle Chambers said patient numbers remained an "unknown quantity" and they needed community support to make it a success.

"It is quite expensive for people to travel to Nelson for a hospital appointment especially for people from Picton and outlying areas.

"For an elderly person or someone with health issues it can be quite a draining experience if they have to wait for a bus."

A decision has not been made by the board on funding, Chambers said.

Marlborough Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester said Red Cross needed more information to see if it was viable and if a vehicle and volunteers would be available.

"The question is how well would it be utilised," she said.

A working group were investigating if Blenheim surgical patients attending Nelson Hospital could attend a pre-admission clinic at Wairau to reduce travel, Tester said.

A mini-bus took medical staff from Blenheim to Nelson Hospital each day and an option would be to expand the service to patients.

Redwoodtown GP Jim Vause said he had patients who needed to go to Nelson Hospital but couldn't get transport.

They had tried to get funding from the district health board but had received no response.

Springlands Health practice administrator Helen Pauley said transport proved a bone of contention.

"It is not a smooth pathway at the moment. When patients go to Nelson they end up spending at a lot of down time, particularly if a clinic is cancelled."

A Blenheim-to-Nelson health shuttle run by St John was cancelled in March 2012 after six months because of little demand.

Only 217 people had used the five-day-a-week shuttle, giving it an average occupancy of 15 per cent, fewer than two seats per trip.

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- The Marlborough Express

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