St John Ambulance has made an urgent public appeal to raise £100,000 to support their continued commitment to help combat the COVID-19 crisis.
The nation’s leading health and first aid charity – with 1,860 volunteers in Northern Ireland including Armagh – are on the ‘front line’ alongside their colleagues in the Health Trusts and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to provide much needed ambulance resources for patient transfers during the current epidemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the greatest demand to the services provided by St John Ambulance during peace time.
St John Ambulance has confirmed that in the past week 79 of their ambulances have been deployed across Northern Ireland, with an average of 11 vehicles dispatched every day to supplement the ambulance resources of NIAS.
Established in 1877, St John Ambulance is the nation’s leading first aid charity.
Every year, more than 800,000 people in the UK learn how to save a life through training programmes, including hundreds of thousands of young people. Volunteers provide first aid in their communities, keeping people safe at events, and working alongside the NHS to supplement the statutory ambulance services.
Since March 20, the organisation has not been able to receive any income from providing first aid and ambulance cover at public events or deliver first aid training courses as they have been cancelled, in order to comply with essential social distancing regulations across Northern Ireland to delay the spread of COVID-19.
This loss of the main revenue streams is likely to last for many months and potentially into 2021, placing unprecedented financial pressures on the organisation, and making it difficult to provide essential first response training to the volunteers, purchase/maintain first aid and lifesaving equipment, and maintain the fleet of ambulances.
Christopher Murdock, Chairman of St John Ambulance (NI), said: “In the past month our mission has consisted solely on helping the various NHS Health Trusts get hospitals, wards and beds emptied of those patients who can be discharged and taken home and transferring new patients to hospitals/clinics.
“The surge in demand for our services is putting us under incredible pressure. We still continue to work to our full capacity, but we don’t know how long this will last.
“Without the critical funding that we need at this time we will not be able to keep running at this level of demand. We require funds for more personal protection equipment (PPE), maintenance of our vehicles, premises and equipment, and to provide training to our volunteers.”
Expert volunteer trainers in St John Ambulance Northern Ireland are working hard through virtual platforms to fast-track and progress more volunteers through advanced first aid and ambulance crew clinical qualifications.
By carrying out this process they plan to get ‘more boots on the ground’ and additional highly trained and committed volunteers deploying in ambulances to support and promote their existing efforts on the ‘front line’.
Volunteers come from a variety of professions from qualified medical personnel such as hospital consultants, doctors, nurses and paramedics, to first aiders, advanced first aiders and ambulance technicians from a wide background. They all work in shifts and are at risk of catching the virus.
In addition to their regular training, all ambulance crews have been trained in how to deal with infected patients and wear the appropriate PPE.
Adrian Donaldson, Chief Executive of St John Ambulance, added: “Just like their NHS colleagues our volunteers are being pushed to the limit mentally and physically to deal with the high demand for emergency care at this extraordinary time.
“We couldn’t be prouder of them as they dedicate their time and compassion to help others in a life-threatening situation.
“By donating and supporting our fundraising you can make a real difference in helping us fulfil our vital role during this crisis. Together we can save lives by fighting COVID-19 in the months to come and continuing our vital work into the future.”
To make a donation to St John Ambulance (NI) and help save lives visit www.sjani.org