$40m boost for ambulance services

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The Government will provide almost $40 million in funding for ambulance services in a bid to relieve the pressure some of the providers are under.

St John and Wellington Free Ambulance Service are the two benefactors of the Government's pre-budget announcement.

Some $21 million will be paid out to the ambulance providers over the next two years.

This one-off funding, according to Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, is aimed at relieving pressure from ambulance providers and providing them with certainty.

At the same time, St John and Wellington Free will work with the Ministry of Health, ACC and District Health Boards on the long-term sustainability of their services.

A further $17.2 million in operational funding has also been made available to the ambulance providers – this will be paid out over four years.

In total, the Government allocated $38.2 million in this year's budget for St John and Wellington Free Ambulance.

Health Minister David Clark said New Zealand's ambulance services deserve a secure and sustainable future.

"Today's announcement gives us time to do the work to make sure that happens."

Ambulances respond to more than 550,000 emergency 111 calls a year, with more than 440,000 calls resulting in an ambulance being dispatched.

At the moment, the Ministry of Health and ACC fund approximately 72 per cent of the operating costs of ambulances.

The remainder, some $65 million a year, is funded largely through part charges and donations.

Today's announcement, however, does not mean the ambulance providers would be able to stop relying on donations, Peters said.

The new funding comes amid increasing calls for the Government to put more money into ambulance services.

Last month, St John chief executive Peter Bradley appealed directly to the Government to fully fund the service.

He said St John put a funding bid to Government of more than $350 million over four years to increase its funding levels to be fully supported.

"Although we will always fundraise for our community health programmes, we want this to be the last annual appeal where we have to ask the public to donate money to run an essential emergency service."

St John provides emergency ambulance services to nearly 90% of New Zealanders in 97% of the country's geographic locations.

Each year, it responds to more than 476,000 emergencies across the country.

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