Northam Community Transport Service volunteer proves humour is the best medicine

Press Release
  • St John Community Transport Service volunteer Chuck Franz loves to ease the minds of elderly Northam residents and encourages others to join this National Volunteer Week, May 15-21.
  • Not-for-profit private health insurance provider HIF and St John Giving, the charitable arm of St John WA, are creating a dedicated CTS in Northam to service up to 40 jobs a month. 
  • Northam volunteers will be able to drive a fully equipped Kia Carnival with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and be trained in first aid to support Northam CTS clients and their carers on their journey. 

St John WA Community Transport Service volunteer Chuck Franz will go out of his way – more than four hours, in fact – to ensure elderly Northam residents get more than just safe and responsible transport to their medical appointments. 

He also delivers them with a smile. 

“Most of our clients are in the age group 70 to 95 and most are anxious about going to see a doctor or to the hospital,” Chuck said.  

“The best part of my day is when they get out of the vehicle with a smile on their face – I have just about a 100 per cent success rate.” 

Chuck, who likes to call himself “the Whacky American”, says his accent breaks the ice and he follows it up with English humour and a touch of Aussie larrikin to elicit laughter from the back seat and ease all anxieties. 

“The results are amazing. Clients lose track of time and when we arrive, they can’t figure out where the time went – even a two-hour drive from Bunbury will fly by in no time,” he said.  

“Remember smiles are contagious. That is what I enjoy about volunteering for the St John Community Transport Service (CTS).” 

Chuck doesn’t mind making the two-hour drive between Perth and Northam, as well as Bunbury, for CTS having worked as a truck driver. 

He encourages others to join as CTS volunteers this National Volunteer Week, May 15-21, having signed up four years ago after realising elderly residents needed the service and “they have taught me a few new things in this journey of life”. 

“When you realize how much it means to the clients, and really understand their point of view of what we are doing for them, you will be touched,” he said.  

“If you want to impact another person’s life, give a bit of your time and help those who need it because one day you are going to need it.” 

Charity arm St John Giving, in partnership with not-for-profit health insurance provider HIF, is set to launch a dedicated Community Transport Service (CTS) in Northam on May 22, thanks to the donation of a dedicated CTS specialty vehicle. 

The fully equipped Kia Carnival has automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and first aid kits, with St John volunteers trained to safely drive Northam residents to vital healthcare services. 

St John CTS currently undertakes about 20 to 40 jobs in Northam each month, with anyone wishing to volunteer as a CTS driver being encouraged to visit: 

St John WA Group CEO Kevin Brown welcomed the expanded dedicated CTS service as part of St John’s broader commitment to connect isolated members of the WA community to vital healthcare services. 

“Many in our regional communities cannot use mainstream public transport systems or their usual form of transport to get their hospital and specialist appointments, which is where St John’s Community Transport Service steps in,” Mr Brown said. 

“As well as servicing patients, CTS also provides an option to have a carer accompany patients at no extra cost, so partnerships between St John and HIF are important to ensure every West Australian is given equitable access to healthcare.” 

HIF’s partnership with St John Giving began two years ago with the launch of the Bunbury CTS in mid-2021. The service is now offered across Perth, Goldfields, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, the South West and Northam. 

HIF CEO Justin James said he was pleased the health insurer could continue supporting the regional WA community. 

“St John WA’s Community Transport Service (CTS) delivers reliable and affordable transportation to patients who need assistance travelling to and from hospital and specialist appointments and we are proud to be able to help expand this service,” Mr James said. 

About HIF: HIF has been supporting its members and their families’ health and wellbeing for over 65 years. A not for profit, ‘here for you’ health fund, HIF prides itself on proving choice and access to its members. Whether it’s choice of hospital, specialist, or other provider, HIF gives members total freedom to make these decisions when it comes to their health. 

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