More work, no help, says St John man

01:38, Aug 24 2014
darryl smith
FRUSTRATED: St John Fairlie stations manager Darryl Smith is not happy with the increase in workload and decrease in ambulance staff.

St John volunteers are worn down with no support, according to a long-serving volunteer.

Fairlie St John station manager Darryl Smith has been volunteering for 14 years but has become frustrated with the increase in workload and decrease in volunteers. He said he is on call an average of 500 hours a month, which means responding from home or work.

When on call, he could also be directed to help in other stations as far out as Timaru and Twizel, which takes more time out of his day job.

"As an engineer I work nine or 10 hours a day. I've got to make time up I've lost when I've been away from work."

He said the situation had become worse in the last five years, causing an unpleasant work environment at St John.

The Fairlie St John branch has 11 volunteers on the books, with only six of them regularly volunteering.


"People don't want to volunteer, they don't get anything from it, there's no financial gain or anything."

Smith said the Fairlie community had also become disappointed with the service.

"Imagine an 80-year-old man who waited for half an hour or more for an ambulance to turn up. I was up on a farm, had to drive back to Fairlie which was 5k ... get to the scene and have another job at the same time while I was by myself."

He said the only reason he had stayed was to help his community. "We save a lot of lives, which is good, but it's not a happy place to volunteer."

He had voiced his concerns to his superiors but was told nothing could be done because of a lack of money.

Waitaki St John district operations manager Mike Kelly said it is conscious of the challenges of rural volunteering.

He said it was a big issue across the country, and for many community and charity organisations.

"People are life-rich but time-poor; there are many demands on people's lives nowadays, and not everyone has the time available to volunteer regularly for an organisation like St John."

Kelly said St John certainly did not dispute volunteers could be busy, however, figures showed the average workload for Fairlie station was six jobs a week.

He said it was not possible to say what an optimum number of volunteers for each station should be, as each station and area was different. St John was working on increasing volunteer numbers in South Canterbury.

"Ideally, we would like at least an additional 50 staff across our stations in South Canterbury ... this is Fairlie, Geraldine, Pleasant Point, Tekapo, Temuka, Timaru."

He and South Canterbury territory manager Darryn Grigsby were meeting Fairlie team members next week and were happy to discuss volunteering challenges.

The Timaru Herald