St John has begun rolling out a new generation of ambulances equipped with stretchers that can carry heavier patients.

The Mercedes ambulances, each worth $180,000 when fully equipped, have a Powerload Stryker Stretcher system, which can carry 318kg and is expected to help reduce lifting injuries among ambulance crews.

Each month, St John staff suffer up to 10 handling injuries and and around a quarter of those involved stretchers.

The new ambulances also have a single stretcher configuration - a big change from the previous double-stretcher vehicles - after it was found only 1 per cent of ambulance trips involved more than one patient.


"Primarily we wanted to design a vehicle that was safer for our ambulance officers and patients while being cost effective and innovative," said Murray Holt, St John head of clinical operations support.

The 43 new ambulances would be delivered this year and spread around the country.

St John, which operates 696 ambulances and other vehicles, with around 380 assigned to stations, regularly had to replace its ambulances, ordering about 35 a year.

Other features of the new ambulances included 180 degree emergency lights, electric side steps, safer seating and swivel attendant chairs, forward-facing cameras, reversing sensors and a camera on back bumper.