St John takes complaints 'very seriously'

The St John ambulance service says it is learning from its mistakes as complaints about its performance mount up.

The Health and Disability Commissioner confirmed it has fielded nearly 80 complaints relating to St John in the past four years.

The tally reached 22 in 2015-16, 19 in 2016-17, 25 in 2017-18 and 13 so far in 2018-19, an HDC spokeswoman said.

Five of the complaints received so far in the 2018-19 year related to delays in or access to St John services, compared with 12 in the previous year.

Two of the complaints received this year came from the Otago/Southland area, and both files remained open, the spokeswoman said.

She would not comment specifically about St John's level of service, but said patterns or trends of concern - if they existed - were raised with providers directly.

The figures were released after two Dunedin people approached the Otago Daily Times with concerns about St John's performance.

One of the two, Dunedin man Rob Donaldson, was forced to drive his ailing wife to hospital in Christchurch after waiting more than an hour for an ambulance to be sent.

St John receives more than 500,000 111 calls for an ambulance a year, and uses processes - including a phone triage system - to help non-urgent cases while dispatching ambulances to those most in need first.

It also relies on ambulance charges and fundraising for 28% of its budget, and is seeking an extra $350 million over four years from the Government to fully fund the service.

Asked about the latest HDC figures, St John Christchurch metro territory manager Craig Downing said in a statement St John took all HDC reports "very seriously'' and strived for "continuous improvements''.

"All complaints are an opportunity for us to review our processes and make adjustments.

"We wish to assure the public that we take patient safety, wellbeing and privacy and confidentiality extremely seriously.''



St John will continue to get complaints until it is taken over by FENZ or a govt funded service. It sends 2 ambulances to far too many jobs & stays on scene too long - meaning other calls get a delayed response & after a few hours a log jam occurs. Another reason it uses the word "charity" is to lessen peoples attitudes towards complaining about it. Not many know but St John tender for their services and cut competitors out. Its about time the media printed the facts.