Frontline Ambos have been significantly impacted by an increasing workload and the Covid-19 pandemic in recent years. Ambos work long hours under difficult circumstances, often without breaks or timely imitations. Their normal day is to witness our worst day. In an emergency, whether it’s a car accident, heart attack or stroke, they do their best to be there for you, providing life-saving care.
The ambos union, the Ambulance Employees Association (AEA), has launched a new initiative to provide on-the-ground support and nourishment to our hard-working ambulance staff, and they warmly call it the ‘Welfare Wagon’.
The Welfare Wagon project injects much-needed support, sustenance and camaraderie among paramedics.
It is a vehicle that embodies the generosity of the community, delivering snacks, drinks and coffees donated to ambos in queues, ambulance stations, communication center and workshop across the State.
The initiative came about thanks to Maddie who is a Sprint paramedic with the SA Ambulance Service. Seeing the current conditions take their toll on her colleagues at Ambo, she wanted to express her encouragement and gratitude to her fellow workers. “To put it bluntly, in my decade on the job, I have never seen my co-workers so exhausted – physically and mentally exhausted,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the combination of high workload, inability to take breaks or retire in time, ramp-up, physical toll on PPE, heat waves and a pandemic weighs heavily on our Ambos and Ambo staff. This inevitably affects the wider SA community and its access to life-saving care.
“Tired of waiting for things to change, I’ve joined some of my wonderful co-workers and our non-profit Ambulance Employees Association (AEA), to lend support to the ambo family.”
A number of South African organizations and businesses kindly offered to help and Ambos was overwhelmed with support.
Maddie was approached by Northpoint Toyota, who kindly loaned their community vehicle, taking the nickname Welfare Wagon, to use until April 2022.
He travels to offer moral support, snacks and cold drinks to ambos stuck on hospital ramps, in their communications center, fleet workshop, offices and outlying stations.
“The vehicle is mostly made up of retired ambos,” Maddie said.
“They provide a wealth of camaraderie, perspective, encouragement and kindness to our troops, while feeling themselves like productive and highly valued members of the team.”
The maiden voyage began on February 4, and Maddie said the exhausted paramedic recipients already felt utterly thrilled even at the sight of the Welfare Wagon.
“The overwhelming support from local organizations was overwhelming for some, and it took quite a bit of encouragement to even accept the snacks at first,” she said.
“The Ambulance Fleet Workshop, whose contributions are sometimes overlooked, were simply over the moon as they too worked tirelessly to keep our ambulances on the road.”
“A young ambo even hugged her banana, exclaiming that she was ‘hungry’ and that it was ‘exactly what she needed’.
“Seeing the change in morale, the smiles on my colleagues’ faces and a step in their step after a bit of cold caffeine, has been the most heartwarming thing.”
A growing number of South African organizations have kindly offered their support for this initiative, including The Family Chef, Country Women’s Association, First Things First Coffee, The Duke of Brunswick Hotel, Pony and Cole, Beerenberg Farm, Mischief Brewing and The Print Parlour. “Our own co-workers are even cooking for the cause,” Maddie said.
If you would like to show your support for paramedics during these difficult times, contact [email protected] to see how you can help.
“It’s time to feed our ambos like they’ve always fed us,” Maddie said.
“If we keep them on the road, we keep our community safe!”