St John Tauranga operations team manager Ross Clarke said the transformation would see extended care paramedics trained and given cars in order to respond to low priority calls and treat Western Bay patients in their homes.
Mr Clarke said the change could reduce the number of people transported to the Tauranga Hospital emergency department which was struggling to cope with the number of patients coming through the doors.
"Not all jobs we go to require an ambulance," he said.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />
Results from an Otago University study released yesterday show a reduction of more than 30 per cent in the number of patients taken to the emergency department when an extended care paramedic was on board the ambulance.
The study, led by Wellington Free Ambulance clinical services executive manager Sarah Hoyle, looked at 1000 cases attended by extended care paramedics in Kapiti during a ten-month period.
Ms Hoyle said the results supported the use of the specially trained paramedics for after hours emergency care in Kapiti.
"When a standard paramedic answered an emergency ambulance call during this trial period 74 per cent of the patients were taken to hospital but when an extended care paramedic attended, only 40 per cent of the patients were taken to hospital. Most of the other patients were treated either at home or by a GP later in the week," she said.
In each case the extended care paramedics' treatment of a patient was judged appropriate by an emergency medicine specialist.
Mr Clarke said its success would vary in different areas due to the different population break-downs but studies from around the world had shown positive results.
"It will be effective," Mr Clarke said. "We're certainly getting busier in our sub-region."
He said having cars available for use would take the pressure off ambulances which were expensive to run and in high demand.
Intensive care paramedics trained to deal with acute life-threatening issues were stationed at the Tauranga and Mount Maunganui St John stations but there was no one who specialised in attending to minor injuries and ailments at people's homes.
Tauranga Hospital emergency department clinical director Derek Sage said he would support a similar system being introduced in the region.
"This is something that would definitely be beneficial to trial in Tauranga and the Eastern Bay. The fact that only 40 per cent of the patients were taken to hospital, while most of the other patients were treated either at home or by a GP later in the week sounds very promising," he said.
Last week the Bay of Plenty Times reported that the Tauranga Hospital emergency department was stretched to 40 per cent beyond its capacity.
Mr Sage said people with minor ailments such as grazes and hayfever were swamping Tauranga Hospital's emergency department to bursting point.
"It is vital that we get the message across to the public that our hospital Emergency Department is for people with severe, life-threatening conditions. Anything that can be done to support this is definitely of interest to us," he said.
"We always advocate proactive wellbeing and safe lifestyle choices to people rather than seeking reactive medical advice when they are unwell."
The new system had been rolled out in St John stations in other parts of the central region including Hamilton where it kicked off this week.