St John Blenheim gets new health shuttle from Pub Charity

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St John Blenheim members and volunteers receive the new shuttle which has been donated by Pub Charity.

Provided

St John Blenheim members and volunteers receive the new shuttle which has been donated by Pub Charity.

A service that helps Marlburians get to medical appointments just got a little more comfortable with a new shuttle.

Pub Charity, a charity that raises money from slot machines in hotels and taverns, has donated a new 10-seater Toyota Hiace ZX minibus to St John Blenheim.

St John South Island fundraising manager Debbie Pipson said Pub Charity had already funded eight ambulances on the South Island since 2018, including one in Blenheim in March 2019.

Organizing was central to crowdfunding, Pipson said.

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Pub Charity chief executive Martin Cheer said he was delighted to fund the health shuttle as it supported the country’s aging population and recognized ‘the shrinking options in isolated areas for Blenheim’.

St John’s national community care manager Julie Taverner said the shuttle would replace the existing bus, which was 11 years old and had 500,000 kilometers on the clock.

“It will be available to anyone requiring transportation to and from area health-related appointments and area hospitals,” Taverner said.

The new health shuttle, complete with wheelchair hoist, will help hundreds of Marlburians get to and from medical appointments.

Provided

The new health shuttle, complete with wheelchair hoist, will help hundreds of Marlburians get to and from medical appointments.

“This service is also helping our District Health Board achieve higher levels of appointment attendance. And fulfills its mission to support timely access to health services and increase opportunities for independent living, especially among older people.

“Our local and fully trained volunteer drivers are really looking forward to supporting their community with this new vehicle,” said Taverner.

The health shuttle service was run by a team of 25 volunteer drivers and assistants trained in level 2 first aid. This level of training enabled the team to recognize and treat everything from common injuries to life-threatening medical emergencies.

On average, the Blenheim shuttle made about 3,000 patient trips and traveled 50,000 km each year.

Pub Charity chief executive Martin Cheer said it was important to meet the health needs of the elderly and vulnerable when other services were cut.

John Nicholson / Stuff

Pub Charity chief executive Martin Cheer said it was important to meet the health needs of the elderly and vulnerable when other services were cut.

The door-to-door service had nearly 800 customers on its books and looked after all health and medical appointments in the Marlborough area, including Blenheim, Picton, Havelock, Seddon, Renwick and Ward.

A long-time user of the service and a representative of the Access and Mobility Forum, Diane Gibb said the service has helped her a lot in getting the support and medical care she needs.

She said the volunteers were “incredibly kind, funny, empathetic and an absolute pleasure to travel with”.

The service also helps Nelson Marlborough DHB achieve higher levels of patients showing up for appointments.

Kelly Hodel / Stuff

The service also helps Nelson Marlborough DHB achieve higher levels of patients showing up for appointments.

Volunteer health shuttle team leader Graeme Haymes had been in the role for eight years and said the service was very beneficial to the community.

“There are many parts of the role that I enjoy but, of course, the main reason is that we help people who are often in a difficult medical situation or who do not have transport options available to them.

“We often get to know our clients well by carrying them on their journey through significant health issues and we are touched by their resilience and gratitude for our service,” Haymes said.

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