Demand pushes up cost of St John ambulance

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 17/03/2014

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The price of a ride in a St John ambulance will cost more for Manawatu as demand for the service increases.

Patients treated by an ambulance officer or transported by ambulance because of a medical emergency are charged a fee for the service.

From April 1, that partial patient charge will rise to $88, an increase of $13 for users in Manawatu, Whanganui, Taranaki and Northland.

All other areas that receive the service will have a $4 increase to bring them up to the same rate.

The charge for those not eligible for New Zealand publicly funded health services will also increase from $769 to $800.

St John operations director Michael Brooke said the rise in charges was a response to an increase in demand which increased calls for an ambulance by more than 14,000 in the year ending June 2013 compared with the previous year.

St John central district operations manager Steve Yanko said that in a month, the central region ambulances responded to between 1500 and 2000 emergency calls.

That covered an area from Tararua to Otaki, and did not include routine work, such as patient transfers.

Contracts with the Ministry of Health, ACC and district health boards funded nearly 80 per cent of the St John ambulance service's direct operating costs.

The shortfall was made up from community donations, fundraising, revenue from commercial activities and the contribution of volunteers, as well as contributions from part charges.

Mr Yanko said money from the partial charges went into operating costs for the ambulances.

St John was going through a quiet period after a busy summer but the workload had increased overall, he said.

The service's busy time peaked in the winter months of June and July, when it would get 2000 calls a month.

People who were signed up to the St John Supporter scheme, which involves a 12-month subscription fee of $45 for an individual or $60 a household, were entitled to free emergency ambulance attendance and transport to hospital anywhere in the country.

Nationwide, St John staff treat more than 415,000 people each year.

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- Manawatu Standard

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