St John support truly appreciated

Small communities are being applauded for the way their members have stepped up to volunteer for St John.

But no matter how many step forward, there will always be room for more, St John in Canterbury says.

Numbers of volunteers at rural ambulance stations throughout Canterbury have dwindled in the past 12 months, in some places falling to crisis levels.

It means St John has struggled to offer a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week service in some small towns, such as Twizel.

However, a persistent recruitment campaign, greater publicity and industry support has resulted in a good response from communities.

''It is better than what we have had, but the journey has still got some distance to go,'' St John North Otago territory manager Ken Barton said.

Recent publicity, as well as support from Meridian Energy, had seen good numbers step forward in Twizel and Kurow to undertake training, Mr Barton said.

Pressure had been mounting in Twizel as 12 St John volunteers did the work of 24 to maintain a 24-hour emergency service,Meridian Energy was supporting six people in training and five other volunteers from Twizel had also come forward, he said.

In Kurow four more volunteers had stepped forward.

Mr Barton said the station of the next greatest need in his region was WaimateThe stations still did not have a 100% complement of volunteers, he said. It took time for people to be trained and there was the ongoing need to replace those who moved on.

St John South Canterbury territory manager Darryn Grigsby said that ideally he would like to see 10 more volunteers at each of the rural stations in his area.

A recent grant meant two paid staff could be appointed to Temuka but volunteers would still be needed to support the paid employees.

''Recruitment is an ongoing process, people will always leave ... and we will always find a place for you,'' Mr Grigsby said.

St John Mid Canterbury (including Akaroa) territory manager Grant Dewar said stations in Mayfield, Methven, Darfield and Akaroa needed more volunteers.

St John relied heavily on volunteers, especially in rural areas, and those who served the service worked very hard for their communities, he said.

He was also grateful to employers who gave their staff the flexibility to be available for the service.

However, St John, like the fire service relied on volunteers and had to compete for people's time against work demands, family pressures and other community needs.

St John would work with people to find workable solutions, he said.

St John Waimakariri territory manager Blair Andrews said despite having a good number of volunteers, the workload had increased and this was putting more pressure on people and how much time they were able to give.

In the past volunteers who were available all night might only be called out two or three times and be able to rest in between emergencies and so not be too tired for working the next day, he said.

But the larger volume of ambulance work meant volunteers were not necessarily able to safely perform their jobs the day after a night shift.

Mr Andrews said there was an induction night for new volunteer staff every three months.

He aimed to get four to five new volunteers at a time and usually was able to fill those positions quite easily, he said.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can visit their local St John office or phone on 0800-785-646.

- by Ruth Grundy