The Western Bay St John are being stretched to the limit as callouts continue to climb. New figures released to The Bay of Plenty Times show numbers have risen by more than 400, year on year from 2010 to 2012.
That trend was likely to be repeated, with 7322 callouts attended up until June 30.
Over 40 per cent of the 14,873 calls St John responded to in 2012 were for health complaints including minor problems such as coughs, colds and faints.
Heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems, extensive blood loss, motor vehicle injuries and serious falls accounted for 8094 of the call-outs while 95 were fatalities - where patients were deceased or died en route to the hospital.
However, plans are afoot to reduce non-urgent callouts and emergency department drop-offs by creating alternative care pathways to meet patients' needs.
St John Bay of Plenty operations manager Jeremy Gooders said some people rang an ambulance because "they view it as an emergency".
"We will go there and evaluate and assess the patient but sometimes it has been self-resolved and they are feeling much better. We have two choices - one to leave them at home with some advice that may involve seeing a GP, or take the high acuity cases to the emergency department. But ED is not always the right place for patients."
Future developments were under way to give people and the ambulance service options, he said.
"We are part of the primary health sector. The future for us is to develop a number of alternative care pathways that will meet the patients' needs. That might come in the form of clinical telephone advice or connecting people up with other primary health-related services. We may also respond out and transport them to other places than ED."
Last year, a pilot programme was launched nationwide where extended care-trained paramedics were given cars to respond to low-priority calls and treat patients in their own homes. That move was introduced to take the pressure off ED but Mr Gooders said it had not been adopted in Tauranga.
The Ministry of Health and ACC pay 80 per cent of St John funding, totalling $223 million in the 2010/11 financial year. The rest was raised through donations.
The Bay of Plenty district St John region had to find about $1 million a year to make up the deficit, said Mr Gooders.
Monies were raised by grants, donations, St John memberships and medic alarms.
The part-user charge for an ambulance may also go up from $84.
St John callouts in Western Bay
Jan-Jun 2013: 7322 total callouts; vehicle accidents 233; fatalities 65
2012: 14,873 total callouts; high acuity 8094, low acuity 6779; vehicle accidents 497; fatalities 95
2011: 14,401 total callouts; high acuity 9149, low acuity 5252; vehicle accidents 504; fatalities 56
2010: 13,987 total callouts; high acuity 8703, low acuity 5284; vehicle accidents 506; fatalities 56