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Helping the helpers

Territory manager for St John Western Bay of Plenty, Ross Clarke. Photo: Nikki South.

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My husband is a paramedic.

He comes home after a 12-hour shift with some amazing stories sometimes – tales of life and death, despair and elation. Other shifts, he comes home beat and frustrated. It’s part of the job, he tells me.

But some of the frustrations are avoidable, and I hear them first-hand at the end of his long, and sometimes emotionally and physically draining, shift.

Sometimes, something as simple as re-stocking and cleaning the ambulance after a particularly heavy job can take up to 30 minutes, he tells me. That’s 30 minutes that an EMT or a paramedic is tied up with basic tasks, instead of being out on the road caring for their communities.

St John ambulances are a vital part of our society. And they need our help.

Territory manager for the Western Bay of Plenty Ross Clarke has been working with St John for 23 years and says it’s the basic chores that are usually holding EMTs and paramedics back.

“It’s essential stuff that we are struggling to stay on top of,” says Ross, things like re-stocking the ambulance, cleaning it out, staying on top of stock management and ordering. Things that are vital to how our emergency medical service runs, but also eat up precious time.

“We can help our paramedics by helping ease their frustrations, and that leads to better patient care as well.

“Rather than having crews coming back from a job and re-stocking kits and cleaning out vehicles, we can have them back out on the road,” says Ross.

They are looking for volunteers – people with five or six hours a week – who want to help St John run more smoothly and keep our ambos out on the roads and saving lives.

“We’re finding our area is busier, it’s bigger, and we’re having difficulty always fulfilling all the roles we have to fulfil around the station, such as re-stocking equipment and kits, vehicle hygiene, vehicle cleaning, moving vehicles around for us – from place to place or to workshops or getting them wherever we need them. Often we’ll be driving around, with a second ambulance following us, we’ll get a job and we’ll have to ditch an ambulance on the side of the road. We then miss our slot at the windscreen place or the auto sparky or something like that.”

Ross says extra sets of hands volunteering to do these kinds of jobs will make all the difference.

“It’s going to be a game changer for us, because it’s stuff that needs to be done and we are trying to squeeze it into an already busy day. It adds more stress on the staff who are trying to get these auxiliary jobs and duties done as well,” says Ross.

“We’re looking for volunteer operations and logistical support staff, which would suit a different set of people. They don’t have an interest in the medical side but they are wanting to help; they may have an interest in vehicles or logistics.

“There aren’t any requirements, we’ll give volunteers full training and it’s basically having the time, a bit of common sense, being able to fit into a team environment, and working with a wide range of people really.”

So if you want to drive ambulances around to stations, help re-stock ambulances and stations, or do a bit of cleaning to keep everything spick and span, you can help St John.

“I’ve had my share [of interesting jobs], as has anyone who has been with St John for a long time,” says Ross.

“The general scenario for an ambulance officer is that you go to a job, you’re helping a patient, you’ve used a lot of equipment in your vehicle, and you know it’s busy out there – you can hear all the other crews responding to jobs, and your truck is trashed because you’ve used a lot of gear and there might be some mess in there.

“It takes time for you to get back out to respond to another patient because you have to clean this stuff up. But if we can nip back to the hub, we jump out of that truck, into another truck and get going, knowing that the vehicle we dropped off will get cleaned and re-stocked for the next crew, it saves a lot of time, which is important when someone is having a medical or an accident-related event.”

For more information and to put your hand up to volunteer, contact Ross on: 07 571 7653.

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