Volunteers brighten up hospital stay

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CHRISTMAS THANK YOU: At the gathering were (from left) general manager Canterbury Rural Health Bernice Mara, midwifery nurse manager Julie Dockrill, Friends of the Hospital coordinator Jackie Rapley and secretary Lorraine Kershaw.
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For nearly half a century, volunteers have assisted staff at Ashburton Hospital to meet patients’ non-medical needs.

Friends of Ashburton Hospital was begun at the request of the medical superintendent at the time, Dr Chapman, and social worker Margaret Denham.

They recognised that while patients were in hospital, they were happier, more comfortable and less anxious if a holistic approach to their care was taken.

Co-ordinator Jackie Rapley said each week day from February to Christmas eve volunteers serve morning teas in the wards, and at Tuarangi. Recently they were thanked by the hospital at an end-of-year Christmas gathering.

‘‘Along with the chats and cuppas, we also provide Easter and Christmas treats to those in hospital at these times. We decorate the Christmas tree and provide a nativity scene in the chapel. Before Christmas, we will visit the hospital and Tuarangi to sing Christmas carols,’’ Jackie said.

‘‘Prior to Covid, the Friends took patients to a weekly chapel service, provided a library with books and magazines. We hope to be able to return to doing these next year,’’ secretary Lorraine Kershaw said.

Members have also helped out in times of need, including supporting staff during nurses strikes, helping in a crisis and following the earthquakes in Christchurch, which saw many patients sent from Christchurch to Ashburton some with no clothes or possessions.

‘‘We provide personal care packs for patients who unexpectedly end up in hospital through situations like accidents. Each pack contains shampoo, a comb, tooth brush and paste. We are able to gift these packs thanks to the support of Foodstuffs Community trust and Hello Banana,’’ Lorraine said.

‘‘Warm Baby, Safe Baby is a project the Friends are enormously proud of,’’ Jackie added.

‘‘Thanks to funding from Advance Ashburton and Ashford Store, we have purchased pure washable wool and around 20 volunteers make singlets, beanies and blankets for new born babies in Ashburton.

“These are very needed as some families have very little and don’t know how cold it can be here.

“As babies don’t shiver their parent’s aren’t always aware they are cold,’’ Jackie said.

The Friends meet monthly on the first Tuesday of the month to hear from speakers who generally talk on health related topics.

The meetings also provide the opportunity to connect with the other volunteers.

Currently there are 40 volunteers.

In order to future-proof the organisation and continue to provide a much needed and appreciated service, they are looking for more volunteers to join them and someone to co-ordinate the volunteers.

At the annual appreciation morning tea provided by Ashburton Hospital on International Volunteers Day, the Friends presented 100 personal care packs as well as three large boxes of knitting for the maternity ward to pass on to the families of new babies.