Shuttle makes smooth start
The St John health shuttle team made its 300th patient trip last week.
St John Te Puke area committee chairwoman Lyn Govenlock says this achievement has justified the establishment of the service, which is still in a trial phase.
“We are thrilled that it appears that we are meeting a need and very proud of the team recruited to deliver this service,” she says.
Operating for just over four months, the current 10 volunteers have settled into a well-managed routine that spans Monday to Friday. Since it started in early July nearly 80 people have booked to have the shuttle transport them to and most times from medical-related appointments.
The service is currently limited to trips to Papamoa, Mount Maunganui and Tauranga.
“Limiting where we would go during this early phase was important,” says Lyn.
“It has given us a chance to see what demand there is and to ensure that we don’t try to be all things to all people right from the start.”
Lyn is optimistic there will eventually be a service to Whakata¯ ne.
“But it certainly won’t happen until we have an additional shuttle and adequate numbers of volunteers” she says.
“Firstly we will need organisational approval to move from the trial stage to retaining this as a permanent St John Te Puke community health service.
“So, we could be at least 12 months away from considering that sort of expansion.”
There were 12 customer trips undertaken on October 17, the service’s busiest day to date.
The volunteers work shifts between 7am and 5pm. Picking up multiple customers creates a 90-minute transport lead-time for bookings.
This means bookings can’t be accepted for Tauranga-based appointments prior to 9am, and at the other end of the day, the shuttle needs to leave Tauranga no later than 3.30pm.
“All shuttle crew members are volunteers,” says Lyn, “so it’s important we look after them and give them some certainty around expected work hours. We are blessed with the calibre of volunteers driving our health shuttle and working rosters to fit around their personally given days is essential.”
More health shuttle drivers are needed to spread the load as demand continues to grow.
Progress to date suggests the service is on track for approval to become a permanent St John community health service over the coming six months once all pre-requisite conditions have been met.
■ Anyone interested in considering becoming a St John Health Shuttle volunteer is invited to contact [email protected] to arrange for a no obligation observer shift with a crew to see if this volunteering option might suit.
The Te Puke St John health shuttle team.