by Greta Yeoman
More than 40 South Canterbury residents have used the St John Aoraki Health Shuttle in its first two months of operation.
The free service, which started up in late May, has so far transported 42 people on 100 trips to Christchurch for essential medical and health-related appointments.
This includes doctors’ visits, dental visits, specialist appointments and hospital day stays for minor surgery.
Passenger Fay Edgeler said the service was “absolutely amazing”, as driving up and back in a day had become impossible for her and her partner.
The free shuttle meant they could still make the trip in a day and would not have to stay over in Christchurch following any appointments.
She said unlike previous trips when they would drive up at sunrise, returning at sunset and feeling exhausted, the shuttle made the process much more bearable.
“You get back at the end of the day as refreshed as you started.”
Volunteer driver Murray Swann said the most passengers the service had transported at one time had been five, usually averaging two or three, but he expected this would increase as knowledge of the shuttle grew.
He became involved with the service after volunteer Gordon Handy, a fellow Timaru Suburban Lions member, brought the shuttle to one of the organisation’s meetings.
The aim of attracting a few members to become volunteer drivers worked – Mr Swann signed up.
The Lions club also donated $3000 to the shuttle scheme earlier this year.
Mr Swann said volunteering was a way of giving back to St John after the service rescued him “out of the wops” several years ago following a bad accident.
St John Timaru area executive officer Sally Jarvie said the service was always on the lookout for more volunteers, and it would have enough when volunteers could expect to only have about two shifts every month.
“A couple of days a month is the aim.”
The schedule involves two volunteer drivers per trip, one to drive up, and the other to drive home.
While the service runs from Timaru to Christchurch, and back, clients can be picked up in Temuka, Winchester and Geraldine.
Bookings, which need to made by 3pm on the day before your trip, can be made by calling 0800103-046.
Appointments in Christchurch ideally need to be between 11am and 2pm.