ED admission not a given

Not everyone who calls an ambulance in South Canterbury will end up in one, or at Timaru Hospital's emergency department.

That's the message from the St John territorial manager for South Canterbury, Darryn Grigsby, who was responding to public concern that South Canterbury's ambulance service is not doing its job.

Five people have expressed their concern to the Herald, after some were told by paramedics they did not require ambulances, while in other cases, ambulances were not dispatched.

"What we need to let people know is people can always call St John for help. Sometimes that help might come in the form of an ambulance, or advice on how to seek the most appropriate treatment," Mr Grigsby said.

A telephone triage service is used to assess the urgency of calls received.

"There's a growing emphasis on getting the most appropriate treatment option for people.

"We want people to know if they call St John, St John will help."

One example was that if an ambulance were called, it would not necessarily take the patient to hospital. Instead, the best option might be to take them to their GP, Mr Grigsby said.

"Everybody who calls an ambulance needs it. They might just not need to be transported to an emergency department in an ambulance."

If there were an "immediate" threat to the patient's health, they would be taken to hospital.

However, it was important people did not think they would get through the emergency department's triage system faster because they arrived by ambulance.

"They will be triaged and seen in an appropriate time-frame."

Last year, 76 per cent of callouts attended by St John in South Canterbury were transferred by ambulance.

"That might not have been to the hospital - some might have been taken to a more appropriate destination, like their own GP."

If anyone was dissatisfied with the service St John provided, Mr Grigsby encouraged them to make a complaint, which would be fully investigated.

The Timaru Herald