Rotary Club of Nelson West members, Shelley Fleming, left, Murray Win, second left, and Russell Egan, right, with volunteer Kathy Cuthbert at Nelson Hospital last week. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Hospital buggy service needs help

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The Nelson Hospital buggy service needs your support with a shortage of drivers and a run of expensive repairs putting pressure on the volunteers who operate the buggy.

The hospital started the service in 2006 to help patients who were struggling to walk from the car park up the steep hill to the hospital’s main entrance way.

Now the service is funded by the Rotary Club of North West Nelson and operated by volunteer drivers who say they need help to keep it running smoothly.

“We’ve spent $4700 on maintenance in the last year,” Rotary club committee member Russell Egan says. “We had to buy seven new batteries at $375 each and pay $1300 to repair the motor after it blew up.

“And now we need four new tyres by Christmas so that’s another $800. It’s carried 4292 passengers so far this year, so it costs a bit to keep going.”

Cathy Cuthbert, who coordinates the drivers, says they also need more volunteers.

“We’ve got about 20 drivers at present but always need more,” Cathy says. “They do about four hours a fortnight when we have a full roster, so it’s not too big a commitment.”

Cathy says people can apply to be volunteer drivers at the hospital reception but will need to be vetted before they are accepted. In addition to being good drivers, Cathy says the volunteers must be good listeners and empathetic.

“It’s a bigger job that just driving passengers around,” Cathy says. “You might have to pick up someone from out of town who’s come to visit a family member who’s in intensive care, so you have to have lots of compassion.”

Russell says volunteer drivers also need to know when to put the pedal to the metal.

“I picked a woman who was in labour once and she was so close I thought I was going to have to deliver the baby. I’ve never driven so fast in my life.”

The hospital buggy service runs Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm.