St John reveals demand for its services continues to grow and what is sparking it. Sandra Conchie reports.
Demand for ambulance services in the East and West Bay of Plenty region has significantly increased, including a spike in the number of mental health-related callouts from seniors.
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Latest data obtained from St John New Zealand showed emergency ambulance callouts in the region were up almost 7 per cent in 2019 compared with 2018.
Ross Clarke, St John's territory manager for the Western Bay of Plenty said St John responded to more than 46,000 emergency calls last year in the East and West Bay of Plenty.
That's more than 3000 compared with 2018.
Clarke said this included a significant rise in calls to respond to mental health-related incidents, up 16.5 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.
Traumatic injury calls were also up 16.3 per cent.
Fall-related calls in the region were up 11 per cent which was consistent with national numbers and may be indicative of the region's growing ageing population, he said.
Clarke said demand had definitely surged but due to a funding increase about a year ago there were now four more ambulance officers, bringing the total to 54 full-time officers and about 60 volunteers.
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Our service has been doing a lot of work with the Western Bay of Plenty PHO over the past couple of years to try and reduce the pressure on our service and our personnel.
"We've put in place a number of strategies which includes making referrals to GPs and other primary health care treatment providers particularly those with a known risk of falls and mental health issues, plus other support agencies and the healthy homes programme."
Age Concern Tauranga general manager Tanya Smith said mental health issues often related to loneliness and social isolation among some senior citizens.
"It's a growing problem and it's only going to get worse giving the growth in our ageing population in this city and the region," she said.
Smith said the increase in mental health callouts from seniors was a troubling trend.
"So much so that next month we're going to launch an AgeConnect scheme with a range of activities and events aimed at helping our seniors to build friendships and community connections."
Nationally St John responded to more than 440,000 incidents last year, almost 18,000 more than the previous year.
National operations director Norma Lane said mental health-related incidents had risen by 10 per cent, which was consistent with current trends both nationally and globally.
Lane said the largest increase in demand were among those aged 70 to 79 years, and the calls from men had also increased, now making up 47 per cent of all mental health calls.
"In the last six months we have responded to nearly 20,000 people in some form of a mental health crisis," she said.
Lane said St John had worked hard to take the pressure off the wider health system.
In 2019, 170,000 people were treated at home, given advice over the phone or directed to more appropriate care rather than taken to a hospital emergency department, she said.
2019 by the numbers:
Top 6 reasons for St John Ambulance calls:
Falls/back injuries (traumatic) 4652, up 11.1%
Breathing problems: 4300, up 15.2%
Tramatic Injuries: 2023, up 16.3%
Convulsions/fitting: 1702, up 23.7%
Psychiatric/suicide attempts: 707, up 16.5%
Stroke CVA: 1103, up 12.9%
Source: St John Ambulance
IF YOU NEED HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111. Or if you need to talk to someone else: • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7) • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7) • Youthline: 0800 376 633 • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7) • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm) • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7) • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 • Samaritans 0800 726 666