Holiday influx causes strain

By Kristin Edge

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St John staff deal with up to 400 incidents a week

STRETCHED: District operations manager St John Northern Region Tony Devanney.PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
STRETCHED: District operations manager St John Northern Region Tony Devanney.PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

THE St John ambulance service was called to 64 incidents a day during the busiest week of the summer holiday season in Northland, putting a strain on limited resources, says a senior official.

Over the New Year period the service's workload peaked at about 450 incidents for the week of New Year's Day.

District operations manager St John Northern Region Tony Devanney said the New Year's Eve workload was mainly in the Bay of Islands area where St John staff predominantly dealt with intoxicated teenagers.

"This type of work places a strain on our limited resources and can significantly delay providing further resources to other medicals and accidents at that time," Mr Devanney said.

He said the workload in Northland this summer had exceeded predictions. He estimated an average of 330 incidents a week but at times rising to 400.

"This workload is due to an influx of holidaymakers which increase the population in the coastal communities significantly and this puts quite a strain on our limited resources.

"During the peak periods we do provide extra resources in areas like Paihia, Mangawhai and Russell to endeavour to provide good ambulance cover to the communities," Mr Devanney said.

"Again this also places a strain on our volunteer services who generously provide their valuable time to St John and their communities."

St John planned for an increased summer workload in the coastal areas and then an increased winter workload period in inland areas.

Mr Devanney said the national average increase in ambulance workload was 4 per cent per annum but the Northland increase was about 10 per cent.

"We currently are attending 18,200 incidents in Northland for the last 12 months."

He encouraged people to think about why they were calling for an ambulance. If the issue could be easily dealt with by a GP, then they should go to a doctor in the first instance.

"This also reduces the strain placed on the hospital emergency departments. Approximately 35 per cent of our calls are not required to go to hospital and are either seen and treated or referred to GPs."

The St John service and the Ministry of Health are working on initiatives to reduce the initial ambulance resource and to reduce emergency department admissions by 80,000 nationally over a five-year period. That will be achieved by identifying alternatives and clinical triage on initial phone calls.

- Northern Advocate

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