St John requests more government funding

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St John has asked for additional funding from the Ministry of Health. Photo: Supplied
St John has asked for additional funding from the Ministry of Health. Photo: Supplied
St John New Zealand has asked the Minister of Health for more funding for ambulance cover throughout the country, saying the volunteer model of emergency care is no longer sustainable.

The move comes as staffing levels at Wanaka, Queenstown and Cromwell are set to be reviewed as part of St John's national double crewing project.

The four-year project, which started in 2017, means the end of single crewing of emergency ambulances in New Zealand, and is government funded.

Wanaka, Queenstown and Cromwell St John stations are already double-crewed, but with a mix of paid and volunteer staff. They would be assessed this year to see if any additional paid full-time staff were needed to ensure 100% double crewing, Central Otago territory manager David Baillie said.

Other fully volunteer stations, including Kingston, Owaka and Riversdale, would be assessed within the next year.

Mr Baillie said the double-crewing project - which meant an additional paid full-time ambulance officer stationed in Invercargill late last year - would ''specifically benefit our rural and remote locations'' and recognised that ''we can no longer rely on volunteers to consistently crew ambulances''.

St John received 72% of its funding from contracts with the Ministry of Health and Accident Compensation Corporation, a St John spokesman said.

The remaining 28% comes from emergency ambulance part charges and fundraising.

But the funding was not sustainable, St John chief executive Peter Bradley said.

Mr Bradley has met Minister of Health David Clark, about St John's funding model concerns and, in partnership with Wellington Free Ambulance, St John has submitted a request for a ''significant'' increase in government funding.

The Otago Daily Times sent questions to Dr Clark's office and the Ministry of Health about the reliance of St John on volunteers and whether more government funding would be given to St John.

Dr Clark's office did not respond, but a statement from ministry community and ambulance manager Andrew Inder said ACC and the ministry provided about $176million annually to St John.

Mr Baillie said the Otago-Southland region had 116.5 full-time St John staff, 80 casual staff and 489 volunteers.

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