A large part of our work involved taking patients to the many daily clinics at the hospital. Auckland hospital decided they could get better value for money than utilising ambulances for this workload and the contract for these services was awarded to a taxi company!
We suddenly found ourselves extremely short of work. For a few weeks we were all parked in the ambulance bay at the major city hospital waiting around for jobs. The management decided there was simply not enough work left to continue the Patient Transport Service, which was abandoned, and we were thankfully integrated into the mainstream service.
Being part of the emergency side of the service was more much exciting and challenging.
The other Ambulance Officers I worked with came from every walk of life. Some had been medics in the armed services, some were nurses but most had no medical backgrounds at all. There were tradesman, a lawyer, a few from the Police force and people from just about every other job out there.
The uniqueness of the job and type of work formed a very strong comradre amongst the staff and the senior staff were generally very well respected by the junior staff.
When I first joined the service it still had a military feel about it. Senior Operation Officers were addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Mam’. Staff were expected to be well groomed with polished shoes and vehicles were expected to be kept clean, tidy and well presented at all times.
There were even regulations on what linen was to be laid on the stretcher. The ‘corporate linen,’ as it was referred to, consisted of two neatly folded blankets, a folded draw sheet, a towel and a pillow, tidily arranged on each stretcher in a set pattern.
It was forbidden to drive with your elbow partially leaning out the window and at one stage we even received a directive not to use please or thank you during our radio telephone conversations.
Each station had four ranked staff. There were three station officers and one senior station officer who was responsible for the overall running of the staff and station. They were mostly advanced paramedics and well respected since they were also responsible for handing out discipline.
As time went on these regulations softened and it became a more relaxed place to work although I felt some of the professional image was lost in this transition.
When I first started with the service there were almost two hundred ambulance officers scattered throughout the eight metropolitan and five rural stations.
As a new staff member, particularly as a male one, it took some time before you got to know many of the staff. Even just being with them on station did not guarantee that you got to know them. It wasn’t until you actually worked with them as a pair that you got to know who they were, their background, past work history and they got to know you and yours.
For many of the older staff, especially, you had to earn their respect and almost prove yourself before they would warm to you.
I was fortunate that I managed to fast-track this process by playing for the Auckland Ambulance Rugby team thanks to the organiser and captain Boycee.
We only ever played about five games a year but thanks to Tony and some corporate sponsorship we had our own rugby jerseys and played on the little used rugby grounds at the Ford motor company in Manukau.
Our opposition teams were usually from the Fire Service, Ministry of Transport, Police, Referees association and even other Ambulance services.
The games were a lot of fun but also quite competitive. There was always some friendly badgering between the teams and even the typical punch-ups that seemed innate with the sport.
One time when we were playing a neighbouring ambulance service in Auckland, the referee walked off the game because he said it was too rough for a so called friendly game.
Since the players in our team were from all the different stations I got to know and respect a lot of the older ambulance staff and found a strong comradre amongst them. This of course also translated into the job.
Although I hadn’t been particularly sporty in my earlier years I now really enoyed team sports and while working for the service I also played in the touch rugby team and arranged a basketball team and indoor volleyball team as well. The trouble was trying to get regular players amongst shift workers but it was still fun nevertheless.
One year I also ran with an ambulance team in the Keri Keri half marathon and in the Around Lake Taupo relay run.
These were both fantastic events as we were allowed to take an ambulance PTS van as transport and had an ambulance social club t-shirt as part of the team. They also helped to build comradre as well as keep us fit.