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Thank you and farewell, Board member and ex-Chair Ross Martin

Thank you and farewell, Board member and ex-Chair Ross Martin

Thank you and farewell, Board member and ex-Chair Ross Martin

Following a family illness, an ambulance call-out, and a chance encounter with an ex-Wellington mayor, Ross Martin has spent 16 years on the Wellington Free Ambulance Board, including 10 years as Chair. During this time, Wellington Free has undergone a lot of change – here Ross discusses his highlights.

Back in 2006, Ross’s then toddler-aged daughter became ill at home, growing sicker and sicker until she collapsed. At that point, Ross knew it was time to call the ambulance. The family lived in an apartment at the time and the call taker told him to wait downstairs.

By the time he got outside, the ambulance, Ross remembers, came “streaming up”. With our ambulances single crewed at that point (which means there was only one paramedic per ambulance), the paramedic “popped out and cared for my daughter before transporting her to hospital where she stayed for a few days”. This experience made Ross feel like Wellington Free was an “amazing organisation”.

A year later, Ross was walking along the road when ex-Wellington mayor Mark Blumsky hailed him, telling him “Ross, you can help me!” It turned out Mark sat on the Wellington Free Board, but he was now a busy MP and needed a replacement – and he thought Ross would like the opportunity. Thankfully, he did, and felt pleased as he took his place on the Board in 2007.

Reflecting on his 16 years

When Ross first joined the Board, Wellington Free “felt like a transport operation, picking people up and taking them to hospital. Now we’re treating in homes and other pathways which is a great improvement”.

This isn’t the only growth Wellington Free Ambulance has experienced over the past 16 years. Highlights from Ross’ time include four new or upgraded stations, such as the Wellington Hospital station which originally occupied an older building in Newtown; the purchase of the Johnsonville site; the build of the new Kāpiti station which was realised in part due to community fundraising; and now fundraising to build the state-of-the-art Wairarapa station.

Other initiatives he’s proud of the Board’s involvement in include double crewed ambulances (which means there are now two paramedics per ambulance). As Ross explains, “ambulances were single crewed when I first joined the Board. From a safety perspective, for both our staff and patients, the Board decided to investigate double crewing. Although it’s now a government requirement, it wasn’t at the time”.

There’s also the expansion into the Wairarapa, which gave Wellington Free the opportunity to “deliver our services and do a good job” in a new, nearby region.

Our urgent community care programme began as a pilot up on the Kāpiti Coast. It aims to treat patients in their home, rather than transfer them straight to hospital. Choosing to trial the programme on the Kāpiti Coast was a “huge thing” as a “round trip to the hospital can take up to 3 hours”, which is a big time and resource investment for both our staff and patients. Urgent community care means “treating more patients in their homes saves overloading emergency departments” while also delivering better outcomes for patients as “patients are more likely to recover better in their own homes”.

Challenges and opportunities

Throughout the years, the hardest part for the Board has been getting finances in order – as Ross points out, “it’s an expensive exercise running an ambulance service”.

However, Ross credits the “incredible support and generosity” of the people of Wellington and Wairarapa, including companies and businesses through to individuals donating ambulances and increased government funding, plus the establishment of the Wellington Free Ambulance Trust. The Trust has grown over these years and is now able to help support major projects, like the Wairarapa Station build.

For Ross, one of his biggest highlights has been meeting the Wellington Free Ambulance staff and “learning about their amazing jobs, from the frontline staff to the people behind the scenes”. He’s full of praise for the “motivated, knowledgeable workforce” and reflects that he “feels like he’s part of the Wellington Free Ambulance family. The anecdotal evidence I’ve received over the years from friends and family and neighbours – someone always knows someone who has been helped. This is what keeps you going as a Board member. It makes you feel like part of a brilliant organisation – and proud to be so.”

As an aside, Ross also regular donates to Wellington Free Ambulance. He explains donating “feels like it makes a difference in another way – but I’m just one of hundreds and thousands of locals who support”.

To sum up, Ross is “a big believer in the team” – and the Wellington Free team is a “good one” that continues to grow and develop.

That, to Ross, is “what makes the difference”.

Tēnā koe and thank you, Ross, for the difference you’ve made to Wellington Free Ambulance and the Board.



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