St John misses staff boost as targets exceeded

Southland's St John services missed out on a nationwide staffing boost because they already exceed targets and outperform other regions, management say.

St John announced this week it was increasing its frontline numbers by 158 paid staff across New Zealand in a move to improve wait times, reduce single crewing levels and improve patient and staff safety.

Almost every other region will increase frontline staff for their ambulance services.

St John Southland Lakes District operations manager Pauline Buchanan said the decision on where the new staff would go was performance-based.

Southland services were already hitting and exceeding targets across all areas of operation, she said.

Compared to areas such as Canterbury, which was receiving 20 new staff members in Christchurch alone, Southland was performing significantly better.

Nationwide, St John aim to respond to urban callouts within eight minutes at least 50 per cent of the time.

In Southland, the self-imposed target is to respond within the eight minutes 81 per cent of the time and they were already exceeding that with existing staffing levels, she said.

For rural areas, the target was to reach 50 per cent of calls within 12 minutes, and they were presently exceeding that by reaching 60.3 per cent of people within that time-frame.

While there was "room for improvement" in those rural figures, staff numbers were "about right" in the main areas, she said. "We're not going to achieve much more than what we currently do with extra staff.

"I'm confident the placements are going to the areas that need it the most. I would have jumped up and down and made a big fuss if I thought otherwise."

The positions will be funded by a combination of St John fundraisers and commercial activities, additional ACC funding, and additional Ministry of Health funding totalling about $10 million.

ACC has agreed to move from a "fee-for-service" funding model - where St John invoices ACC for each accident-related injury - to paying a fixed share directly towards St John's national emergency ambulance operation.

Funding was secured to boost staff in Alexandra by two, and one new staff member in Wanaka.

The Southland Times