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Diss and Long Stratton leisure centre staff scrub-up to volunteer at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to help with Covid battle




Staff at Diss and Long Stratton leisure centres have joined the front line in the battle against coronavirus by volunteering at a nearby hospital.

In a big departure from personal training and Zumba classes, the staff have been redeployed to vaccination wards at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to help support the Government’s efforts to vaccinate a nation.

Around 20 fitness instructors, lifeguards, receptionists and other staff have found themselves working 40-hour weeks at the hospital, ushering around patients as they receive their jab.

Dan Coltman, duty manager at Long Stratton leisure centre, taking the temperature of Sam Arnold, a lifeguard at Wymondham Leisure Centre - an example of some of the tasks undertaken by the volunteers. Picture by Mecha Morton
Dan Coltman, duty manager at Long Stratton leisure centre, taking the temperature of Sam Arnold, a lifeguard at Wymondham Leisure Centre - an example of some of the tasks undertaken by the volunteers. Picture by Mecha Morton

Dan Infanti, a project manager at South Norfolk District Council – which runs the leisure centres – said he was “immensely proud” of his staff.

“Obviously, we are shut at the moment, so we wanted to do whatever we could to help,” said the 39-year-old.

“There was an announcement from the NHS, saying that it needed volunteers –and it felt a bit like a call to arms.

“They were all just chomping at the bit – they were ready to rock and roll and the just wanted to help.

“It’s a tough place, working at the hospital, and I’m just immensely proud. I have found the whole process quite humbling.”

Beginning last Monday, the staff have been mainly working in administrative roles,which frees up the health workers to get on with administering vaccines.

Mr Infanti added that his staff, who were all vaccinated ahead of starting at the hospital, were providing a vital resource to the health service.

“A lot of it is completely alien to them, but they have all been absolutely amazing,” he said.

“They have been directing people around, taking people in, taking people’s names – all of which is really important, because otherwise that would be something a clinical member of staff would be having to do, so it releases them to do their jobs.

“They are perfect for the roles as they are used to dealing with the public.”

Professor Nancy Fontaine, chief nurse at the hospital, thanked the volunteers for their efforts.

She said: “I’d sincerely like to thank my colleagues from South Norfolk leisure centres for responding to the call to arms.

“This recognises that everyone in the community has a talent that they can offer us in this fight against Covid.”

They are not the only leisure centre staff who have been redeployed elsewhere to help understaffed parts of the public sector.

Around a dozen staff from Diss, Long Stratton and Wymondham leisure centres have been helping out with bin collections.

Others have been working on the council’s help hub, making sure vulnerable members of the community are well-taken care of during the pandemic



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