Ambulance staff boost to accelerate response

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 22/08/2014

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St John Ambulance crews in Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua will see a boost in numbers as part of a multimillion-dollar recruitment drive.

In the biggest recruitment of additional ambulance staff in its history, St John is adding an additional 158 frontline staff to 35 areas across the country, to be employed in stages by July 2015.

That figure includes the 57 new staff to be funded by St John at a cost of $4 million a year, announced in February this year.

The move is expected to reduce instances of single crewing and improve service response times and patient and staff safety.

Palmerston North will receive five new staff, while Levin and Pahiatua will each receive two additional staff.

Two staff were added to Feilding's service following the February announcement, and are already working.

A further 16 staff will provide relief cover across the Central North Island.

Funding from ACC of $5.5m is paying for 82 of the staff, following a change from the existing "fee for service" model, to paying a fixed amount toward St John's national emergency ambulance operations.

A further $1.3m from the Ministry of Health has paid for the remaining 19 additional staff.

St John Manawatu district operations manager Steve Yanko said the additional staff in Pahiatua was the biggest boon for the district, because it meant the area could have 24-hour coverage without having to have someone on call.

The two staff currently working in Pahiatua were on a "96-hour roster" where 12-hour work days were followed by 12 hours on call.

It was the last place in the district to still be running such a roster.

Of the five staff joining Palmerston North, two would go into transfer services, which would increase availability of the ambulances for emergency work.

The other three, as with the two new Levin staff, would be put toward ensuring ambulance crews were full.

"This is not the demise of volunteers, St John still has huge capacity and reliance on volunteers to help crew ambulances. This is good. With the increasing demands placed on ambulances and our volunteers and paid staff, it goes a long way to ease the pressure off us a bit.

"We'll put the full crewing on where we get the best value for money, on our peak workloads, and we know where they are."

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- Manawatu Standard

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