Wellington Free Ambulance is pleading with people to only call in times of emergency as the service struggles to cope with winter pressure.
Calls have reached 2000 a day, similar to the peak of the Omicron surge in March this year. The service says the high volume of calls is putting strain on both the call line and the frontline staff.
Kate Worthington, the head of emergency ambulance at Wellington Free, says although a winter increase is expected, it's come early this year and Wellingtonians should consider alternatives before calling for an ambulance.
"People should contact their GP or seek assistance from Healthline (0800 61116) where possible, this will mean emergency ambulance responses can be focused where people need help the most."
However, Worthington does not want people to avoid calling an ambulance entirely.
"Anyone with severe chest pain or difficulty breathing or life-threatening accident-related injuries should not hesitate to call 111. These are the type of incidents we want to ensure our resources can respond to in these times of intense demand."
The message comes days after a Wellington man died at home, six hours after he called for an ambulance.
The man's family don't know how long he was waiting for help to arrive, but were told his death was being referred to the Coroner due to the hours-long wait for the ambulance to show up.
The 73-year-old's daughter-in-law, who wanted to only be referred to as Katrina, told Newstalk ZB's Wellington Mornings host Nick Mills she was woken by police last week, who told her that her father-in-law had died.
"They said that he had rung an ambulance for chest pains and when they got there he had died already," she told Mills.
Katrina urged anyone who was calling an ambulance to make sure they also called a friend or relative in case they also ended up waiting for a long time.
Wellington Free Ambulance told NZME it could not comment on specific cases.
"Like all healthcare providers Wellington Free Ambulance is experiencing unprecedented times and demand due to the ongoing impact of the global pandemic and now the impact of winter illness across our community," it said in a statement.