Ambulance for city base

By Laurel Stowell

From next Monday, one of Wanganui's two ambulances will be based in Wicksteed St from Monday to Friday in a two-month trial.

The idea was mainly to improve response times to the central city, Wanganui East and Aramoho, St John Wanganui operations team manager John Stretton said.

The ambulance will be based at a new station in Wicksteed St in the Tupoho Community Complex, hosted by Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority. Forming an ongoing relationship with Te Oranganui will be a spin-off both Mr Stretton and Te Oranganui chief executive Nancy Tuaine look forward to.

The ambulance and two staff will be based in Wicksteed St from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, during March and April. If that works well, the arrangement could become permanent.

The Wicksteed St station will be a separate one listed at St John's Wellington control room. It will communicate with Wanganui's Tawa St station through linked computers.

Mr Stretton said the highest number of ambulance calls during business hours were to the central city, and ambulances needed to respond faster.

"We want to see if we can improve the percentage of times we're getting to emergency calls within eight minutes."

Building a relationship with Te Oranganui could also help with wider public health matters, he said. That was especially true for the Central Plateau, where populations fluctuated and weather could be extreme.

"Sometimes just putting people into the ambulance and bringing them all the way down here might not be the best thing for them."

It was also not always best to take Wanganui people with chronic ill health and a lot of "wrap around" care to hospital.

The number of people calling ambulances to take them to Wanganui Hospital's Emergency Department has increased from 3000 in 2001 to more than 10,000 last year. Some people were calling an ambulance over and over again.

St John had an informal arrangement with two GP practices - Te Waipuna and Gonville Health. They had a single phone number that ambulance staff could ring to get patients seen quickly by doctors. That would cost the patient $64 for the ambulance plus the GP fee, Mr Stretton said, but for some people it was still better than waiting in the hospital's Emergency Department.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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