St John Ambulance's Temuka branch has been given a lifeline, with two paid ambulance officers to be recruited by the end of the year.
The recruitment is part of the national branch's overhaul of its systems. St John's South Island general manager, David Thomas, said Temuka was chosen for extra staff because of its location, the town's demographics and the nature of the callouts Temuka had to respond to.
"Temuka has a large aged population ... which could mean that the staff would be frequently responding to clinical callouts of a reasonable complexity," Mr Thomas said.
He said the two fulltime staff would be based at the Temuka station, but would be able to respond to callouts throughout South Canterbury if required.
In South Canterbury, St John has 14 fulltime and 11 casual paid staff, while there are 151 listed volunteers. Temuka's branch presently has 19 listed volunteers, but no fulltime staff.
However, St John South Island communications manager Ian Henderson said the organisation needed an extra 100 volunteers in South Canterbury in order to provide an ambulance for every shift.
"All volunteers would have to be free for one shift a week. While Timaru, for example, has 34 volunteers ‘on the books', not all of them can contribute regularly. People do have other commitments, such as family and work," he said.
Over the last few months there have been several recruitment drives for St John volunteers in South Canterbury. Mr Thomas acknowledged the two extra fulltime staff would not completely solve these issues.
"However, it will certainly help. Staff who are more highly qualified can respond to more complex jobs, and alleviate the burden of the volunteers," he said.
Mr Thomas said the two extra staff should be recruited into the Temuka branch by the end of this year.
Yesterday, the St John national office announced it had approved funding for 57 additional paid ambulance staff across New Zealand.
Mr Thomas said the national office did not "canvass" the local branches before making the announcement.
"We would love to be able to give extra staff to all branches, but our deployment has to be based on the actual need required [according to our research]," he said.
- The Timaru Herald