Elanora’s Gift Shop, which has been providing patients, families and visitors with a range of souvenirs and gifts for over a decade at Rockingham General Hospital, may face closure due to a severe shortage of volunteers. The hospital’s volunteer group, Rockingham General Hospital Auxiliary, which opened and runs the shop, is struggling to attract new volunteers to keep it running.
Rockingham General Hospital Auxiliary was established in 1976, not long after the hospital opened its doors in 1975. The volunteer group has been a vital part of the hospital’s community for over four decades, raising over $4 million in funds for the hospital, providing scholarships for hospital staff, furnishing the hospital with a fully-equipped training theatre and lecture room, and hosting special events and donating raffle prizes.
In 2009, the auxiliary opened Elanora’s Gift Shop, which has been a popular destination for patients, visitors and staff alike. The shop is managed and staffed entirely by volunteers, and its profits are directly invested back into the hospital. The group also runs a trolley service for patients on the wards.
However, the gift shop is now facing an uncertain future due to a lack of volunteers during COVID-19. The pandemic has resulted in a significant decline in the number of volunteers, with ongoing lockdowns and harsh restrictions for health workers leading many to resign. Despite the hospital’s efforts to attract new volunteers, including setting up an online Volunteers Hub, there has been very little response.
Former Auxiliary president Sally White, who recently passed the presidency baton to Denise Fisher, expressed her concerns over the situation. She said that the executive committee was short two positions and if they were not filled, the Auxiliary may have had to wind down as it is an incorporated body and has laws to obey. Ms. White also revealed that on some weekdays, they struggle to keep the cafe open until 1 pm due to shortages of staff.
While volunteers stepped in to fill the executive positions, the auxiliary is "not out of the woods" just yet, said Ms. White. She added that they still require a steady stream of new volunteers to enable them to continue and eventually return to staying open until 5 pm as they did in the past.
The shortage of volunteers has left many feeling upset and concerned about the future of the gift shop. One volunteer, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared how much they enjoy helping people and being part of the big family at the hospital, and it would be sad to see the gift shop close.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Trish Blake said in a statement that volunteers play a vital role in the health system and the work of the Rockingham General Hospital Auxiliary is highly valued. She also encouraged people to consider volunteering their time to help out at the gift shop or other areas within the hospital.
To become a volunteer or find out more information, interested individuals can contact Denise Fisher on 0418 402 332 or email Rockingham.firstname.lastname@example.org or Kerrie.James@health.wa.gov.au. The Auxiliary is hoping to attract more volunteers to keep the gift shop running and ensure the hospital's patients and visitors continue to receive the same level of care and support they have come to expect from the hospital and its volunteer group.