​KI ambulance volunteer Shirley Bell recognised for 45 years of service

SA Ambulance Service on Monday night celebrated the incredible dedication of ambulance volunteer Shirley Bell.

She has served as an ambulance officer for 45 years and her service was officially recognised by all her fellow KI officers and SAAS interim CEO David Place. She received a plaque, flowers and gifts.  

Humble as ever, Shirley in accepting the recognition said; “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it”. 

Shirley commenced with the Kingscote ambulance team in 1973, joining her husband Charlie, who was a foundation member of the team when it began as an independent community ambulance service in the 1960s.

Her service predates both the present Kingscote Ambulance Station and all other team members. When she commenced the team had amalgamated with the St John Ambulance Service.

The division trained in the basement of the local hospital and were equipped with a Holden van to transport patients. She was present for the opening on the present ambulance station in Murray Street. 

At that time Shirley and two other women were the backbone of the day shifts with the male members covered nights and weekends. All this while Shirley raised a large family.

By the early 1990s, Shirley found herself in the Transport Officers position, required to look after the station maintenance, the two ambulances and operational readiness.

Always a shrewd judge of character, Shirley unloaded that position onto an unsuspecting Mark Haby, so that she could get back to what she enjoyed most, treating patients.

With the centralisation of the ambulance subscription scheme Shirley found herself seconded into the store person role, a function that she still preforms today. Shirley was granted Life Membership of the SA Ambulance Service in the early 2000s.

Shirley has had many adventures but never stepped back from what she considered her duty. She remembers being literally thrown into the SES rubber ducky to be transported to a patient who had fallen off a cliff near Penneshaw and could only be accessed from the water.

Shirley has not been an operational volunteer for some years but still provides essential logistical support for the team she has dedicated 45 years of her life to.

“Thank you hardly seems enough for such a commitment, but Shirley has never looked for reward or recognition, just to help provide an essential community service to the best of her ability,” Mr Place said.

Volunteer team leader Mark Haby said Shirley had been a mentor to him and her 45 years was an epic achievement and an incredible commitment to the community.

Regional team leader Mick Berden checked the ambulance station training log book and found out that Shirley had attended an amazing 1350 training nights in that very building.

Ambulance volunteers always have and always will continue to play a vital role in remote areas such as Kangaroo Island. 

The ambulance volunteers help patients receive lifesaving treatment faster where the local ambulance has to cover large distances. SAAS is always looking for volunteers.

One of those volunteers, Toni Kempster in November will be going to New Zealand on an exchange with the St John’s ambulance service. But prior to that in October, Toni and the local team will host a paramedic from New Zealand. Stay tuned to The Islander for that story. 

Anyone interested in joining the KI ambulance team in any capacity, should contact Mick Berden for further information on 0429 990 626.