Responders at the ready for 40 years
FIRST RESPONSE TEAM: vice chairman Brian Boyle, chairman Martin Benson, treasurer Dan Wood, secretary Joyce Corlett and Ron Holt
Published on Thursday 3 February 2011 07:00 RUSHEN Emergency Ambulance service turns 40 on February 11 and for them to have become such an important feature of life in the south is ‘rather amazing’ said Joan Quine, who, with husband Ken, drove the formation of the service. The south needed an ambulance service because long minutes waiting for the Noble’s Hospital ambulance cost lives. Ken, who died in 1991, knew first aid from his involvement in St John Ambulance and Joan was a district nurse until they got married; together they ran the hardware store still named Ken Quine’s in Station Road, Port Erin, so were well placed in many ways to spearhead the formation and running of the new service. Alerting the ambulance was a far cry from today’s emergency call out service. ‘The doctor rang sometimes and people just knew about it and would ring us or if something happened in the street they would fly round to the shop,’ she said. ‘There were coronaries, strokes, all sorts of things. You never knew what you were going to go to or how people were, it was a bit nerve-racking.’ She even delivered a baby in the ambulance once, and two at home. Joyce Corlett was roped onto the committee and as occasional driver through her friendship with Ken and Joan, now 91. She battled with the original ambulance’s gearbox that you had to ‘double de-clutch on the way up and down, it was a beast to drive,’ she said. The original ambulance was an old Noble’s Hospital vehicle and the committee set to work raising funds for land and a garage. They leased the plot of land from Port Erin Commissioners and raised £3,500 in the first 18 months to cover the costs of building a garage, petrol and repairs. They bought a new ambulance – a Ford Transit costing £2,500. The original Austin Ambulance was a back up and so a second garage was needed and built at a cost of £3,217.
More ambulances followed, with increasing costs. Joyce said one of the highlights was ‘the wonderful thrill every time we bought a new ambulance, the last one was £64,000, we suddenly realised we had enough money’. The community pitched in and not just financially. Sometimes they’d turn up at the station for a call out and have no driver so they would collar somebody they knew in the street, said Joan. Crew members have been from all professions, including a harbourmaster, a painter, commissioners’ staff, an air traffic controller, teacher and employees from the former Martin Baker’s factory. Funds came from all directions. ‘We always got it,’ said Joan. ‘We did a little concert, a supper, had stalls at events, one person brought daffodils into the shop to sell. People would give donations,’ she added. Also when they refuelled the ambulance, people who happened to be at the garage would sometimes pay the bill. Joyce would work hard to hammer down costs and did some fierce negotiating, particularly over equipment for new ambulances. Joyce explained that the doctor usually called the ambulance out, so would contact the hospital to say it was on its way, and if the doctor wasn’t involved, the ambulance crew had a radio and they would contact the hospital directly. Occasionally, Noble’s Hospital would directly ask Rushen Emergency Ambulance to attend an emergency. Joyce also said that when she married Dougie in 1978, they came out of St Catherine’s Church and the ambulance picked them up and drove them round the village before delivering them to the reception, they had rigged up a skeleton waving from the back door of the ambulance. If there is a common theme to involvement in Rushen Emergency Ambulance it seems to be long service. Martin Benson, now chairman, became involved as a sixth former at Castle Rushen High School in 1978 when the school presented Ken with a cheque from the proceeds from the Christmas fair. ‘I find it interesting,’ Martin said of his involvement. ‘It’s the usual clichés of contributing to the community.’ He added it is generally acknowledged that it helps if patients know the crew. ‘Everyone knew Ken Quine and Joan, we thought it helped to see a friendly face when in distress.’ He won the community category in Flybe/Isle of Man Newspapers’ Pride in Mann Awards in 2004 for his involvement with the service. The nominator noted that if she needed an ambulance, she’d want to see Martin’s face. Since Isle of Man Ambulance now has an ambulance station in the south (in the car park off Droghadfayle Road in Port Erin), Rushen Emergency Ambulance – a Manx registered charity – has switched its focus to providing a First Responder Service, launched in 2008. A First Responder with equipment, including a defibrillator, can be with a patient within minutes and give vital lifesaving treatment until the ambulance arrives. There are now nine first responders in the south. This group gave an astonishing 10,769 hours of voluntary service to first responding in the south last year. Of that, Martin’s service alone was over 2,600 hours. Joyce steps down as secretary this year, double de-clutching is within her grasp but she can’t handle the emailing and texting. Joan stopped being treasurer last year, at 90, and she’s no longer involved. She said: ‘It’s stupid to say really, now I’m at the stage, I have got to be looked after, that niggles, but I do sometimes miss it.