Getting to health appointments across the Hurunui and North Canterbury is now easier for Cheviot residents, with the help of a service that connects them to a dedicated team of volunteer drivers with access to a community vehicle.
The service, which support locals get to health appointments such as physiotherapy, dental, x-ray, general practice, and medical specialist appointments, was set up by the Cheviot Community Trust following an application to Environment Canterbury (ECAN) to fund the purchase of a car.
Faye Daly, who is a district nurse based in Cheviot says the service is key in helping older people stay well and thrive in the communities they’ve loved to live in for years.
“It is used mostly by older people, which allows them to feel more confident and reassured about staying in the area, because they know they can still get to medical appointments,” says Faye.
“It’s a comfortable way to get to their appointments and makes hospital visits so much easier with drop off and pick up at the door.”
When people need the service, they call the Cheviot Community Health Centre to book it. The volunteer coordinator then organises the roster from a list of volunteer drivers who have been police checked and had their driving assessed.
Faye continued: “The dedicated volunteers are more than just a taxi driver, as they at times are asked to be the patient’s support person and go into the appointment with them. This can be a great help during what can be a vulnerable and scary time for people.”
Bev Thiele, service coordinator, says the car is used twice a week on average to go to Rangiora, Burwood, Amberley, and Christchurch city.
“The volunteer drivers are brilliant and go the extra mile, such as occasionally using their own car if the community car is fully booked,” says Bev.
“They also pick-up people to take them to the Cheviot Community Health Centre, which the practice receptionist and nurse used to do sometimes. Now the practice staff have more time to spend with patients.”
“We couldn’t get by without the volunteers. I think its invaluable and without it some of the locals wouldn’t be able to stay in the area, where they have lived their whole lives.”
“The car has high seats making it easy to get in and out of, plenty of room for walkers/wheelchairs and its efficient and easy to drive,” says Bev.
Other than private transport this is the only way for people to get to appointments, as the bus doesn’t do a return trip in one day, which could mean an extra cost of an overnight stay would be needed. There is a subsidised fee for the trip, which the passenger pays to cover running costs. The car is kept at the health centre and the driver picks up the keys and details from the practice staff.
The Hurunui Health Service Development Group (HHSDG), which is facilitated by the Canterbury Clinical Network and includes representatives from the community and local health and government organisations created a model of care for the region. One of the recommendations of this model is to ensure residents have access to transport to get to health and social services. This also includes people living rurally having their outpatient appointments scheduled between 10am and 2pm if possible, to avoid early morning or evening travel. This is now in place with more than 60% of appointments now scheduled between 10am and 2pm, or the next best alternative.
ECAN also provides an annual fund to help with vehicle maintenance and replacement when needed. The Cheviot Community Health Centre also ensures there is funding available for people in financial hardship who could otherwise be unable to pay the fee.
There are three other community vehicles services in the district of Hurunui, which includes Amuri (which currently covers the Hanmer Springs area), Hawarden-Waikari and Amberley.
Isabelle Bromham, ECAN public transport community engagement advisor says all community vehicles rely 100% on volunteers and are doing well.
“A localised volunteer recruitment approach means that people are more willing to give some of their time to help local residents,” says Isabelle.
For more information about the community vehicles go to communityvehicletrust.org.nz and for information about the HHSDG go to ccn.health.nz/Our-Work/Service-Development-Groups/Hurunui-Health-Services
Photo above: Some of the Cheviot Community Vehicle Trust volunteer drivers.