More paramedics brought into Chch

01:55, Aug 21 2014

Christchurch will get an extra 20 paramedics as St John tries to address concerns about response times and staff safety.

The national ambulance service would introduce an extra 158 frontline staff across the country within six months after ACC committed $5.5 million a year to St John.

The Ministry of Health also committed an additional $1.3m a year and St John itself would commit another $4m to bringing in more staff.

Associate ACC Minister Craig Foss said ACC had agreed to move from a "fee-for-service" funding model to paying a fixed share directly to the emergency ambulance operation.

The changes, which would begin on December 1, would give St John ''greater certainty of revenue'', he said.

In return, St John will provide a greater role in supporting ACC in work to prevent falls and improve outcomes for people with spinal cord injuries. 

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Of the 158 new staff, 42 will come to the South Island, including four to Rangiora, two each to Temuka, Mosgiel and Alexandra, and one each to Wanaka and Picton. 

Christchurch will get 20 new staff, while a further 10 will provide relief cover across the South Island.

St John chief executive Peter Bradley said it was the biggest recruitment of additional ambulance staff in the charity's history.  

Increases in workloads across the country had put pressure on response times, he said. 

St John aimed to answer half of all life-threatening calls within eight minutes, but other targets ''do prove challenging'' during busy periods. 

Christchurch posed additional challenges for St John following the region's earthquakes, with staff having to negotiate damaged roads and cope with temporary facilities. 

''The main challenge for our people in any big city is alcohol and staff safety,'' Bradley said. 

''Of course added to that is the road network [in Christchurch] - that's the only difference from Hamilton or Auckland.'' 

Having extra staff would improve staff and patient safety by allowing at least two staff to be on each ambulance, although volunteers would still be needed, he said. 

''The staff do a fantastic job in difficult conditions and I hope this additional staff will be a good morale boost for them.''

The Press