THEY are the friendly faces when you walk in the door, a shoulder to cry on, confide in and have a great laugh with - and they are gradually returning to duty at Ballarat Base Hospital.
Patient transport driver Ian Everett was one of Grampians Health's first volunteers back in action amid coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. Mr Everett said it had been a hard two years on patients, particularly in remote parts of the region, and for many unsure about coming in to the hospital for vital treatment.
The former plasterer would often call his regulars just to check in during lockdowns and the tightest pandemic restrictions.
If you wake up in the morning with a bit of the aches and pains, this [volunteering] makes you think and really keeps you grounded.- Ian Everett, Grampians Health volunteer
"You do tend to form an affinity with them. Sometimes there are things they don't tell their family - because they don't want to worry them - that they might tell you," Mr Everett said.
"I've been doing this for five years and you get to know if they are saying something you might need to pass on, but more often than not people just want to empty out and talk.
"I drive people from Ararat, Rokewood, Dunolly and Bacchus Marsh, so you get that extra time with them. Sometimes you get ones who don't want to talk and I just suggest we put on the radio. Some need to sleep, because the treatments wipe them out.
"If you wake up in the morning with a bit of the aches and pains, this makes you think and really keeps you grounded."
IN OTHER NEWS
Grampians Health Ballarat celebrated its special workforce for National Volunteers Week with a luncheon on Wednesday.
The health service has approval to return all volunteers to action, including in aged care and the emergency department. Grampians Health Ballarat volunteer services manager Leah Ferguson said the process had started to refresh training, including COVID-19 protocols, to ensure staff were safe and confident in their roles.
"Volunteers are a vital part of our hospital - for staff and patients - and really create a positive energy about the place," Ms Ferguson said. "This is another form of normality returning."
Marie Sutherland can usually be found in the welcome team at the hospital's Drummond Street entrance, helping direct people dropping in with gifts or rushing to find appointments.
Ms Sutherland said the hospital was a big and constantly changing place and many people, whatever their reason for visiting, were often overwhelmed.
I think a friendly face when people get in the door helps. Some people are running late after trying to find a car park and look exhausted.- Marie Sutherland, Grampians Health volunteer
"I think a friendly face when people get in the door helps," Ms Sutherland said. "Some people are running late after trying to find a car park and look exhausted - the relief on their face is special.
"I work four days but I love my day of volunteer work in the hospital."
Volunteering at Ballarat Base Hospital was high on Lynne Williams' to-do list when she moved to Ballarat. Ms Williams was introduced to well-being program Look Good, Feel Good for cancer patients when she worked for beauty giant Nutrimetics.
She is based in Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre offering people cups of tea or being there whenever people need a talk. Ms Williams loved to help people fit wigs and scarves they could borrow for as long as they need during their treatment.
"I have a lot of fun showing wigs," Ms Williams said. "It's changed a bit due to COVID but I used to help with make-up and show how to do eyebrows. I've been in pharmacy most of my life - even showing people different ways to wear scarves can be important."
Grampians Health has more than 200 volunteers across five campuses.
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