$9.2m boost for ambulance services

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 14:22 21/08/2014

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A funding injection for ambulance services has prompted the "biggest ever" increase in staffing, as well as promises of improved emergency response.

ACC has announced an increase of $9.2 million to $63.1m annual funding for St John and Wellington Free Ambulance services, plus a move to bulk funding rather than the current "fee-for-service" payments.

Associate ACC Minister Craig Foss said this meant New Zealanders would ultimately receive better and fasterquality healthcare.

St John would get $7.5m of the rise, leading to the biggest ever increase in ambulance staffing in New Zealand, according to chief executive Peter Bradley.

With funding from ACC as well as the Ministry of Health, the charitable organisation planned to increase frontline staff numbers by 158 paid staff in 35 locations around the country.

It was hoped this would improve service response times, reduce single crewing levels, and improve patient and staff safety.

As part of a five-year workforce plan to achieve full crewing, St John was proposing a new frontline paid role to be rostered as a second crew member to work alongside paramedics and emergency medical technicians in some parts of the country.

Bradley said the boost was the result of ACC's review earlier this year, and had turned out to be more than expected. He said it would go a long way towards relieving increased demands.

In the 2012/3 financial year, St John received 14,000 extra calls. A small increase in patient transport part charges this year helped offset that.

"[The funding] will help particularly in bigger areas such as Auckland and Christchurch. We're also working on better triaging our calls," Bradley said.

The Ministry of Health has also confirmed a 1.4 per cent increase on base funding for 2014/5, as well as an additional $1.5m for frontline staff.

Contracts with the Ministry of Health, ACC, and district health boards funded just under 70 per cent of St John ambulance service operating costs.

he shortfall was made up from fundraising, revenue from commercial activities, and income from emergency ambulance part charges.

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