Volunteers to help guide visitors at new West Coast hospital

Photo: Greymouth Star
Te Nikau building in Greymouth. Photo: Greymouth Star
There will be little chance of getting lost in the labyrinths of Te Nikau when it finally opens: patients and visitors will have help from trained volunteers to find their way through the new Greymouth hospital.

St John is recruiting volunteers now for the West Coast DHB's Friends of the Hospital initiative.

The system would be similar to the one that operated at Canterbury's Burwood Hospital, DHB general manager Phil Wheble said.

"We want to create a positive experience for people going into Te Nikau; we don't want to be bouncing them around the building looking for the right place."

As people walked in they would be met and greeted by a hospital 'friend', Mr Wheble said.

"You will have a guide; someone to answer basic questions like 'where do I go, and who can I talk to?"

St John West Coast chairman Chris Blanchfield said 11 people had put their names forward so far to be Friends of the Hospital, but he could do with more.

"The more the merrier - we are talking about four hours' time a fortnight per volunteer, so it's not a huge ask but it can make a huge difference to people's hospital experience," Mr Blanchfield said.

Volunteers needed to be reasonably mobile, so they could walk people to their appointments if needed.

"Basically we need caring people who are good listeners, friendly and compassionate."

While the volunteers would initially just be guiding people to the right place, they would also be trained by St John to give moral support to people turning up at the Emergency Department, Mr Blanchfield said.

"Whether it's just to hold someone's hand, offer them a cup of tea, or ring their next-of-kin, it's just about supporting people."

Friends of ED was a national St John initiative but had not been run before on the West Coast.  Anyone interested in becoming a Friend of the Hospital could ring St John and speak to Lisa, Mr Blanchfield said.

- By Lois Williams
Local democracy reporter 

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