St John has pulled an advertisement indicating donations would go towards crews who worked at the Christchurch terrorist attacks after protests from paramedics involved in a pay dispute.
Dean Stone, one of the first paramedics to enter Al Noor Mosque following the shootings, has mentioned the issue in an open letter penned to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, while also highlighting funding issues at St John.
Paramedics expressed their outrage at the advertisement, online and on the radio, that indicated donations would go towards the paramedics who were the first responders to the attacks.
"The lack of funding and support for the public was highlighted to me and many of my colleagues when we saw the advertisement using the tragedy of March 15th to raise funds for the service," Stone wrote.
"Due to an overwhelming response from staff that believed that this ad showed a complete lack of respect for the slain and their families it has since been removed.
"Our plea to you is to have the ambulance service in New Zealand which is in crisis be nationalised and run by the Government the same as police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
"You do not ever see police and FENZ going to such levels to get funding.
"The public deserve a first-class ambulance service provided by the Government and not by a charity."
Stone said both police and FENZ were fully funded and regulated by the Government, whereas the ambulance service was run by St John.
"This charity is currently funded by the Government to approximately 75 per cent and the rest is covered by fundraising and donations.
"St John is currently looking to get 100 per cent funding from the Government which we do not believe will rectify the current issues."
St John chief executive Peter Bradley said a Christchurch donation section was added to the website late on Friday in response to overwhelming feedback from people wanting to donate.
"Due to internal feedback from our people the link was removed first thing Monday morning. It didn't sit well with our people and it was seen as insensitive - I agree and I wasn't comfortable with it once I saw it," he said.
"However, this was not a deliberate ask or advertisement for donations - we were simply responding to public demand and providing a channel through which New Zealanders could show their support and provide assistance."
He said the funding model which saw St John forced to ask for donations needed to change.
"St John has contracts with Ministry of Health and ACC who fund approximately 72-74 per cent of the budgeted operating costs for the ambulance service. The remaining 28 per cent was funded through emergency ambulance part charges and fundraising activities."
FIRST Union's national ambulance co-ordinator Sarah Stone said she had received hundreds of complaints from staff about the advertisement.
"Staff are really angry that St John has used this catastrophe, and their hard work during it, to ask for more money from the community through advertising on its website.
"It implied the money would go to ambulance officers when none of these donations are earmarked for ambulance officers and staff are fighting for decent pay."
Members noticed the charity had used images of ambulance officers' chalk writing on vans stating, "Kia Kaha Christchurch", to help sell their cause, a strike action that had previously been criticised by management.
Stone said it was also insensitive giving the ongoing pay dispute.
"St John is majority funded by Government yet its workers have to strike just about every time their contract is up for renewal.
"Meanwhile, there are vans sitting empty in stations around the country because of the massive staffing shortage.
"At what point will St John realise that it needs to listen to its workers over continually trying to make this a non-government enterprise."
St John has been served over 20 partial strike actions as ambulance officers fight for shift recognition and decent pay.
The partial strike actions have included commercial event bans, graffiti on vans and stations and the non-invoicing of patients.
Stone said staff had lifted all notices during the Christchurch tragedy.