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Big boost for vital services

Wellington Free Ambulance shift manager Jonathan Rees [left], Horseshoe Club president Ian Lucas, and Life Flight crewman Scott Palmer. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

A momentous donation from a Masterton club will allow two frontline medical services to continue their “vital” work in Wairarapa.

The Horseshoe Club, a chartered club and a member of Clubs New Zealand, held a special presentation at its weekly meeting last Friday evening: handing over a grant of $5000 – $2500 each – to the Life Flight Trust and Wellington Free Ambulance.

Life Flight crewman Scott Palmer and Wellington Free shift manager Jonathan Rees, both of whom have been involved in emergency services in the region for the past decade, were on hand to collect the donations – and were clearly overwhelmed by the club’s generosity and recognition of their work.

Both organisations, though partially government funded, are heavily reliant on community support to cover operational costs and deliver services free of charge.

Additionally, both have grappled with demanding workloads since the pandemic – particularly Wellington Free, which is now providing more urgent in-home services for people struggling to access medical appointments.

The grant, the first of its significance the Horseshoe Club has made to the community, was an easy choice for the group’s committee – especially considering the needs of its ageing membership.

“Now that we’re getting older, our members are more likely to need the services of an ambulance or a rescue helicopter,” club president Ian Lucas said.

“Wellington Free and Life Flight do amazing work – they are vital services.

“We always hope we’re not going to need their services – but it’s good to know they are here when we do.

“As a club, we’re very proud and excited to be making these donations.”

The Life Flight rescue helicopter and Wellington Free Ambulance attend an accident in Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

Life Flight crewmen Scott Palmer, who lives in Carterton, said one of Life Flight’s three aircraft – rescue helicopter and two air ambulance planes – will arrive in Wairarapa “at least once a day”.

“Each day is different for us,” he said.

“We could end up landing the helicopter in a paddock or on the side of the road, we could be called to a workplace, or we could end up in the mountains if there’s been a tramping or hunting accident.”

He said Life Flight also transfers patients to other hospitals – for example, children to Starship in Auckland and spinal injury patients to Burwood Hospital in Christchurch – and attends to medical
call-outs.

“You might be all the way out at Riversdale and have a stroke or a diabetic emergency – and we’ll be able to get you to Wellington Hospital quicker than the ambulance going over the hill.”

He and Jonathan Rees, representing Wellington Free Ambulance, were both hugely thankful for the Horseshoe Club’s support.

“Donations like this from the community say to us, ‘hey, we see you, your work is valuable and important, and we appreciate it’,” Rees said.

“Paramedicine is a wonderful job – where you see you’re making a tangible difference.

“You’re there to help relieve pain and suffering, to provide reassurance in stressful situations and, in a lot of cases, give people a second chance at life.

“We get to help people at the different bookends of their lives: the beginning, the middle, and the end. And it’s an honour to do that.”

Rees said Wellington Free’s model of care has “changed a lot” since covid.

“We’re not just putting people in the back of the ambulance and taking them down to hospital.

“With all the pressure on primary care services, it’s not uncommon for people to call us as a last resort – and we’ll often end up treating them in their home.

“As our workload increases, and with the cost of everything going up, community support is even more essential for us.”

The Horseshoe Club, which has close to 150 active members and meets twice weekly, formed in 2015 after the closure of the Masterton Cosmopolitan Club.

Jim Laird, club member and inaugural president, said the group had been “blessed with very good finances”, thanks to its member subscriptions and regular raffles.

“I think our financial situation has been the envy of other social clubs around the country – so it made sense for us to give back to the community,” he said.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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