Medical emergency calls drop
The number of medical calls being answered by Timaru's fire service has dropped in recent weeks.
Timaru fire crews were attending an average of 10 medical callouts a week on behalf of St John two months ago. That number has dropped to an average of three in more recent weeks, fire service assistant area manager Steven Greenyer said.
Fire crews had been attending callouts for medical purposes after St John, nationwide, introduced a "code purple" category for immediate life-threatening events. The closest ambulance or fire crew attends.
Those callouts include heavy lifting and cardiac arrest cases.
Why the number of ambulance assist calls has dropped off for the Timaru crews is not clear.
"It's been a wee bit less, but not sure entirely of the reason for that," Mr Greenyer said.
He said a memorandum of understanding was expected to be released by St John in the coming weeks, which had the potential to change, "in some ways", how fire crews assist ambulance staff.
"But it won't alter the fact we assist."
The cost involved for the fire service to attend medical callouts was "not huge". Mr Greenyer said because of that, the service had not imposed a callout fee, unlike St John, which charges patients for its ambulance service.
Instead, the fire service receives general funding through insurance levies, he said.
"There is a cost to us when we attend, for equipment like defibrillator pads and oxygen ... but in the grand scheme of things it's not huge."
St John has had a busy year. One example of a busy day for the ambulance service was in July, when both Timaru crews and a Temuka crew were already on jobs. As a result, two calls within 20 minutes were attended by the fire service.
District operations manager Glenn Cockburn, at the time, said it was more often a case of St John running out of vehicles than not having staff available. The exceptions were when paid staff were sick or there were insufficient volunteers available.
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