Waipukurau St John will lose an ambulance but gain a first response unit as part of a national restructure to introduce double crewing of emergency ambulances.

In May last year the Government announced increased funding to gradually end the single-crewing of emergency ambulances in New Zealand over the next four years.

Consultation on proposed changes at Waipukurau, Napier and Hastings ended recently, with staff and volunteers asked for feedback on several proposals.

These included adding eight staff in Hastings to crew an ambulance for the region, and four staff in Napier to increase availability of intensive care paramedics to support road crews and helicopter operations.


The eight existing staff in Waipukurau would continue to crew the ambulance in Central Hawke's Bay, and a first response vehicle would be introduced.

"Overall, our resource in the area will increase as we add 12 new staff across stations in Napier, Hastings and Waipukurau. This is good news for the region as we are increasing resources and it will be good for patients," said St John territory manager Brendon Hutchinson.

Waipukurau Ambulance Station had two ambulances, but for the past 18 months one had been sent to Hastings during the day on a trial basis due to demand.

"Given the success of this trial we have decided to permanently deploy this ambulance to Hastings, and have it act as a back-up vehicle when Waipukurau needs it. To add further resilience, we will place a first response vehicle at the Waipukurau station," Mr Hutchinson said.

He said ambulances in the three centres worked together to support each other when demand was high in a particular area.

"When the local ambulance is sent to Hastings or Napier, we send the next available ambulance so that Waipukurau remains covered. This won't change as part of our plans."

With double crews, he said patients in rural areas in particular would benefit from receiving critical care while they were being driven to hospital, something that could not be done with single crewing.

Concerns had been raised in Central Hawke's Bay over the years about the time people may have to wait if needing emergency care in rural areas.

Mr Hutchinson said St John ambulances did not operate in isolation, but as a wider emergency response system.

"No matter what or where an incident happens around the country, if the local ambulance is busy we send the nearest available ambulance (or other emergency response resource) according to the acuity level.

"This includes helicopter operations where an incident is either time critical or a person has sustained life threatening injuries."

The overall message to the community was that they should have full confidence in St John's ability to care for them when they needed it, he said.

Volunteers still played a critical role in providing ambulance services in the area, working alongside the current and new staff.

They were being encouraged to apply for permanent paid roles, but more volunteers were still needed to crew the new first response unit in Waipukurau.

People interested in volunteering could visit join.stjohn.org.nz or email Brendon Hutchinson on brendon.hutchinson@stjohn.org.nz.