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What Have St John Volunteers Been Doing During the Pandemic?

St John emergency urgent response hospital volunteers

At St John Ambulance Victoria the backbone of our charitable organisation is our volunteers, and this has been the case since 1883. For well over one hundred years our volunteers have been saving lives and delivering care and compassion to those in sickness, suffering and distress throughout Victoria. Our growing volunteer base of more than 2,200 volunteers consists of everyone from first aiders through to health professionals including, Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics who are ready to serve the community.

Throughout the pandemic, our people have been putting their invaluable skills to good use, by offering an array of vital services to the community – as a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis. So, what exactly have they been doing during the pandemic?

Normally seen at events, the pandemic has opened new ways for our volunteers to be of service to humanity, including door-to-door COVID-19 test collection, setting up an Urgent Care Clinic and transportation of those vulnerable in the community to be COVID-19 tested or to attend medical and other urgent appointments.

Door-to-Door COVID-19 Test Collection

In late June, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced they would be conducting a COVID-19 suburban testing blitz in Melbourne hotspot locations – postcodes that had at least five non-overseas acquired cases since 1 June 2020. So where did our volunteers come into the mix? Not long after the announcement, DHHS engaged St John to assist with the suburban testing blitz and knocking on doors to engage the public. This led to the decision to deploy our passionate volunteers to various hotspot locations to distribute and collect COVID-19 self-testing kits.

To date, 109 of our people have volunteered a combined 1,813 hours spanning over a seven-month period. Additionally, almost 4,100 addresses have been visited and over 6,000 samples have been collected by our people – contributing to the overall 1,170,300 COVID-19 tests conducted.

Transporting Vulnerable People

Transportation is a large part of St John Ambulance Victoria’s service offerings, not only do we provide Non-Emergency Patient Transport (transferring patients from home to hospital or between health care providers) we also transport vulnerable people wherever they may need to go through our Community Transport service. Which is why our volunteers were sought out by DHHS for the vital role of transporting vulnerable people to be tested for COVID-19 as well as those quarantining in hotels to attend medical and other urgent appointments. Transporting vulnerable people is what we do, so all our transport vehicles are fully equipped for an emergency – this includes a fitted AED.  

Since commencing this unique service, 164 volunteers have provided 7,568 hours to transport vulnerable people for COVID-19 testing.

Urgent Care Clinic – Melbourne Showgrounds

St John Ambulance is the largest and most comprehensive provider of First Aid and Event Health Services (EHS) in Australia. Each year, St John services an array of different events – big and small – for their First Aid requirements. Increasingly, for major and high risk events, this includes setting up a Medical Assistance Team (MAT) which is a temporary onsite field hospital staffed with a scalable team of Health Professionals and support staff who triage and treat the widest variety and highest acuity medical emergencies. That’s why when Melbourne Health engaged us to set-up an Urgent Care Clinic (UCC) at the Melbourne Showgrounds for residents in the public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne, we were very quick to respond. In fact, almost immediately, our volunteers sprang into action and within 36 hours of the first point of contact from Melbourne Health, the fully equipped UCC was up and running.

The 28-bed UCC comprised of consultations rooms, resuscitation bays and High Dependency Unit (HDU) bays. In order to keep patients and staff safe, if a COVID-19 positive patient presented, they would be isolated in a separate area, named the ‘hot zone’. Although the intent of the clinic wasn’t to treat a critically ill patient, if the patient was to deteriorate whilst present, they would immediately be moved to the resuscitation bay, which allows them to be placed on life-support or ventilators. 48 of our volunteers worked on the ground each day to set up the clinic and provide care to patients. To facilitate this deployment, 8 truckloads of equipment was brought in, comprising stretchers, cardiac monitors, ventilators, oxygen units and other medical supplies. It was clear to Melbourne Health and DHHS that St John is the only organisation with this rapid capability to both deploy, set up and staff such a unique facility.

The quick set up of the Urgent Care Clinic solidified not only our capabilities to act in a State Health Emergency, but our volunteers’ continued commitment to the service of humanity.

In addition to the wonderful volunteers on the ground providing these services, a further 40 volunteers have dedicated more than 3,000 hours behind the scenes in Command and Communications to ensure all these services run smoothly and efficiently.    

Throughout the pandemic, our volunteers have continued their commitment to the Service of Humanity by helping wherever and whenever needed. It’s with thanks to this incredible group of individuals that St John is able to serve the community further and deliver the best care possible. The regular and stringent training they have received from St John over the years, and for some maybe over decades, in areas including infection control, advanced resuscitation, manual handling and patient safety (just to name a few) has put them in a unique position to step up and support the community at this time.

Not only are they sacrificing their time, St John Volunteers are also putting themselves at significant risk being exposed to confirmed and potential cases of COVID-19. Thankfully they continue to put up their hand to help, knowing that now more than ever before Victorians need St John standing by them to get through the pandemic. Thank you to all St John volunteers – we are so proud of you and truly appreciate your contribution now and always!

Volunteer with St John

Join our team of dedicated volunteers who provide first aid services at events

CPR Lab setup outdoors and taught to the public by our CPR instructors

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St John first aid at events volunteers with first aid kit

Event Health Services

St John Ambulance is the largest and most comprehensive provider of First Aid & Event Health Services in Victoria.