St John's volunteer shortfall
St John's volunteer ambulance crew numbers are 40 per cent below strength across South Canterbury. And some rural stations only have a third of the volunteers they need.
This week it was revealed South Canterbury communities are now frequently without immediate ambulance cover as there are no longer enough volunteers available to provide an immediate response.
Initially St John's rural support officer, Ken Barton, said South Canterbury was 55 volunteers under strength, but that rose to 79 with the inclusion of the Timaru station. Ideally there would be 198 volunteer ambulance officers across the whole region, but there are only 119 at present.
Of equal concern to Mr Barton is the workload that shortage is placing on the remaining volunteers.
''We don't want to burn out the volunteers we have got,'' Mr Barton said.
He listed teamwork, empathy, integrity and professionalism as the qualities St John is looking for in potential volunteers. They also need to have a full driver's licence.
St John provides the necessary training. While volunteers are initially trained to first responder level, Mr Barton said ideally 40 to 50 per cent would continue to diploma level.
''We are looking for people who believe in the cause, people who want to prevent injury and suffering in their community; these are the people we want.''
Many of those who do volunteer are over 60, because, Mr Barton suggests, they are community-minded.
''We need younger people as well. They need to be physically capable,'' he said, explaining procedures such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) were hard work.
In smaller communities, where there were only one or two callouts a week, it was preferable for a volunteer to be on call 24 hours a week. During that time they wore a pager. On average they might only be called out once in every seven times they were on call.
In the busier centres such as Timaru, volunteers need to be at the ambulance station when on call. While it was hoped those volunteers would do three 12-hour shifts each month, Mr Barton said the system was flexible. A person working fulltime might choose to do half-shifts, from perhaps 7pm to midnight, or to work overnight on the weekend.
Some volunteers did far more shifts, simply because they had the time and enjoyed the work, Mr Barton said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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