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A 38% fee increase for non-emergency St John ambulance private hire trips is hitting the South especially hard because of vast distances to main hospitals, Aged Care Association Otago Southland board member Malcolm Hendry says.
Since January 1, a trip of up to 35km cost $200, up from $145. Longer trips were calculated on a per kilometre basis, and had also increased by 38%.
The industry had no choice but to absorb it, but had had little time to prepare for the change, he said.
''We are probably more exposed in terms of cost, given the number of small and widely distributed facilities from tertiary hospitals in the South.''
St John operations director Michael Brooke said in a statement the increase was the first in more than four years, and the fees would still not cover costs.
''Even including these recent increases, the rate for the private hire of an ambulance is inadequate; effectively, individuals are being subsidised by our other funders.
''The percentage change is large because we are coming from an inadequate base.''
The service had introduced a new special half-rate discount for palliative care providers.