by Chris Tobin
St John Timaru’s plan to run a free health shuttle service to Christchurch received a boost this week.
Timaru Host Lions presented St John with $3000 and several members have also expressed interest in becoming volunteer drivers for the service, which will begin in early April and operate from Monday to Friday.
“There’s potentially two or three volunteer drivers,” Timaru Host Lions president Adrian Hall said.
“Timaru Host Lions is able to make such donations as this is primarily funded by our two key fundraising projects – the Caroline Bay Train and our annual compost provision around Timaru.”
South Island St John community transport manager Mark Page said the generous donation from the Lions would help immensely in enabling St John to fund the operation.
“As a charity, St John relies on the generosity and goodwill of the local community and with this donation, we will be able to provide a vital service to the Aoraki community.”
Mr Page said the new health shuttle was an example of St John helping deliver services to local communities where they were needed most.
“By lending a hand to help build more resilient, connected communities, we hope to make it easier for people to stay well and enjoy their lives.
“We want to stand shoulder to shoulder with other health services to collectively deliver emergency and community healthcare that’s right for communities up and down the country.
“Our ambition is to partner with those who also work to improve community-based healthcare, so together we can help more Kiwis to reach better health outcomes,” Mr Page said.
Gordon Handy, a Timaru area committee member for St John and South Island trust board member, said the local committee was funding $30,000 of the operating costs.
They anticipated people who used the shuttle would make donations of about $10,000 a year, which meant a further $20,000 in funding would have to be raised.
“It’s going to be a really good community service and will help people stay in their homes longer.”
St John area executive officer Sally Jarvie said an 86-year-old Geraldine woman rang St John to say knowing the service was beginning had given her great peace of mind, not having to rely on family for her regular health trips to Christchurch.
The St John Aoraki Shuttle will provide free return transport for people who have essential medical and health-related appointments in Christchurch.
This will include doctors’ visits, dental visits, specialist appointments and hospital day stays for minor surgery.