St John told to lower expectations over shuttle

Hato Hone St John community engagement manager Ian Henderson speaks to the Oamaru public at the...
Hato Hone St John community engagement manager Ian Henderson speaks to the Oamaru public at the Brydone Hotel on Thursday night. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
Hato Hone St John met the Oamaru public on Thursday to discuss running a shuttle to out-of-town hospitals, but people were not happy to hear the service could be up to two years away.

About 40 people attended the public meeting, where St John staff asked people to share their stories and needs.

Community engagement manager Ian Henderson said to make the service a reality St John needed to build a strong business case.

It was not just about sourcing a vehicle, but paying for ongoing operations, fuel and maintenance costs as well.

It would also need to find volunteers to drive the shuttle.

"We’re essentially starting from scratch."

Despite being "very keen" to provide a health shuttle, St John would be unable to have one running within the next year.

"It may be up to two years."

That statement was met with frustration from those present, many of whom shared their bad experiences with getting to Dunedin medical appointments.

One woman said it was getting harder to get medical treatment in Oamaru and now more trips were needed to Dunedin or Timaru.

"The services aren’t here in this town."

For almost a year, a donation-based shuttle has been run by Hireplus owner Trevor Goodin, who said Oamaru had a "desperate, desperate need" for a formal service.

"People are p..... off."

He had been speaking to managers at Dunedin Hospital about Oamaru’s needs, but was dissatisfied with what he had heard.

"It’s all lip service. I think we as a community need to get together and put some pressure on.

"Go online, complain about it."

He had committed to running his shuttle voluntarily until St John provided a solution, but as a business owner his work had to come first.

Some weeks, he was operating a shuttle every day.

"I would hate for one of my parents to die because they couldn’t get there."

Even if funding was sourced for the shuttle, he did not think St John understood how difficult it was to get volunteer drivers and they would have to lower their expectations.

Mr Henderson said it was good to hear the feedback.

"It’s very important to hear from the community."

He encouraged anybody to contact the St John Oamaru area office and share their experiences.