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More patients will be diverted from the ambulance service when a new triage model starts in the lower South Island.
From today, St John will expand its clinical hub model to Otago, Southland, West Coast and Canterbury, meaning the whole country will be covered by the tighter triage system.
"If an urgent ambulance response is not required, St John will determine the best treatment for the patient by using a phone triage system," St John said in a statement.
St John patient pathways manager Kris Gagliardi said experienced nurses and paramedics would assess patients by phone, providing "appropriate" care for non-urgent cases.
St John received 121,000 emergency ambulance calls in the South Island each year, of which more than a third were non-urgent.
"Over 34% of the South Island calls are for ... issues like boils, constipation, piles, cramps, gout and earache, and could potentially divert ambulance resources away from someone in more urgent need."
In an email to Southern District Health Board staff, obtained by the Otago Daily Times, the DHB said the triage system had had a "significant impact" on ambulance presentations to emergency departments in the North Island and Nelson-Marlborough.
The SDHB chief medical officer, Dr Nigel Millar, later issued a statement saying the triage system would improve patient outcomes.
"As the St John 111 clinical hub has been successfully implemented elsewhere, we are confident the launch of the service here will go smoothly and we expect to enjoy many of the positive outcomes experienced elsewhere."