A group of Northland patients stranded in Friday night’s storm were helped by the generosity of the Warkworth community in north Auckland.
The nine patients and their shuttle driver, Jeanette Schurgers, had travelled from Whangārei Hospital to central Auckland on Friday morning for specialist health appointments, such as radiation.
However, on the return trip late on Friday afternoon, the shuttle became stranded in Warkworth as the storm lashed Auckland and the highways both north and south became blocked by floodwaters, slips and fallen trees.
Fortunately, the local community came to their aid.
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Hato Hone St John staff welcomed the group into their station, offered hot drinks and then phoned around their networks to find somewhere for Schurgers and the passengers to stay.
They were offered stretchers and mattresses from the local Scout den and other people offered blankets but they ended up staying at Warkworth Hospital – an aged care facility, which had some spare beds and reclining chairs.
Te Whatu Ora transport and accommodation manager Calvin de Boer praised the Warkworth community for their assistance and hospitality, “for which we are extremely grateful”.
“And, our driver Jeanette also went above and beyond the call of duty, even staying up overnight to ensure our shuttle’s passengers were okay,” he said.
On the Saturday morning, de Boer travelled down to Warkworth with another shuttle driver so that Schurgers did not need to drive back up to Whangārei Hospital after only a couple of hours of sleep.
“Once Dome Valley re-opened after the slips had been cleared, we were able to get through. We arrived around 10am and the passengers were very quick to share their praise for Jeanette,” de Boer said.
“As her manager, it certainly makes me proud.”
In the 19 years the patient transport shuttle has run, an event like this has never happened, he said.
The service operates every weekday, departing from Whangārei Hospital at 7am and leaving Auckland at 3pm for the return home. The service is available free of charge to anyone needing to attend a healthcare appointment in Auckland.
Most passengers are people travelling for radiotherapy sessions and other specialist hospital and health care appointments not available in Whangārei.
Another shuttle service operates out of Kaitāia Hospital, transporting people in the Far North who need to attend hospital appointments in Whangārei.