St John answers rising workload across Northland

By Kim Fulton

1 comment
ON THE MOVE: Northland's ambulance drivers are a busy lot, making more than 2800 patient transfers between hospitals each year. PHOTO/FILE
ON THE MOVE: Northland's ambulance drivers are a busy lot, making more than 2800 patient transfers between hospitals each year. PHOTO/FILE

Demand for St John services is increasing with its ambulances alone making more than 2800 Northland patient transfers between hospitals each year.

Ambulances took 2795 Northland District Health Board (DHB) patients between hospitals last year, according to DHB figures - though the previous year was busier with 3028 transfers.

St John assistant director of field operations, Derek Liefting, said the patient transfer service was important as some patients required urgent transfer with high-level medical care.

Mr Liefting said overall demand for St John services was increasing. In the 2014/15 year, there were 17,020 more 111 emergency calls for an ambulance than the previous year nationwide.

"I'm really proud that, although demand continues to increase, we are responding to patients with life-threatening conditions more quickly than ever before," he said.

The St John Clinical Hub initiative meant people who did not need to go to hospital were assessed by a registered nurse and not transported unnecessarily but received more appropriate care. A patient-centred approach on how to best to direct ambulance resources had also been successful, said Mr Liefting. It could use historic data to predict where jobs were likely to be on a given day and aim to have ambulances in the right places.

If there was a major incident in one area, St John would dispatch resources to the scene while considering the areas left uncovered and move other resources there, he said. As an example, Auckland was quiet for St John in January but the coastal areas of Northland were busy, so it deployed resources to meet demand. St John was also focusing more on a "right care and right destination" approach.

A "spinal cord destination policy" meant patients in areas such as Northland would be taken directly to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland for certain spinal injuries.

That resulted in improved outcomes for patients and healthcare savings because of shorter stays in hospital, said Mr Liefting.

Nationwide, St John attended 366,375 emergency incidents last financial year, according to its annual report - up more than 1000 on the previous year.

New Zealanders supported St John with $31.7 million in donations last financial year, said the report.

Mr Liefting said St John relied on the generosity of New Zealanders for donations to support frontline work and community services. St John was also always looking for volunteers, he said.

- Northern Advocate

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