Costs crisis hits ambulances

By John Landrigan -

Auckland ambulance stations are closing their doors at night and paramedic crews are covering larger areas than they should be because of cuts to the St John emergency service.

Stations at New Lynn, Auckland City, Takapuna, Rosedale and Mt
Roskill have been closed for some shifts over the past four months.

Other stations have only one staff member on duty.

St John staff are often not available in an area stretching from the Harbour Bridge north to Warkworth and in metropolitan Auckland because they are on other jobs.

At times, only one emergency ambulance is available to cover West Auckland and the North Shore.

A union representative says all parts of Auckland are affected.

The recession is blamed in part for the night-time station closures because charitable donations, which top up funding from the Government, have plummeted.

National Distribution Union organiser Craig Page, a former paramedic, says St John is routinely short by two to three double-crewed ambulances for each 12-hour shift because sick employees are not being replaced.

This was affecting response times and potentially compromising patient care.

"Someone is going to die from the decision to not cover shifts."

A memo from St John regional operations manager Gary Salmon, obtained by the Aucklander, says staff training will be restricted for the next four months because of a "negative variance" in the budget that has to be corrected.

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