Concerns have been raised about the ability of the Waipukurau St John service to serve the Central Hawke's Bay community with at most times only one ambulance at the station available to respond to medical emergencies in the district.

Central Hawke's Bay mayor Peter Butler, who is standing for a seat on the Hawke's Bay District Health Board in this year's local body elections, raised the issue during his campaign after having been alerted to the fact that while there were two ambulances based at the station, one of those went to Hastings or Napier each day.

"I have been told that this ambulance leaves at 8am each day and only comes back to be put to bed."

He said that at night there were two people on duty, and when an ambulance was called out both of them attended.


"The second ambulance stays there doing nothing - it's just become a car shed for that second ambulance at night.

"If two people go to Porangahau and then an ambulance is required in Wakarara, what happens? It's not good enough."

His concerns were echoed by former Waipukurau Fire Brigade deputy chief fire officer Owen Spotswood who called for a deputation to be sent to St John management to consult on the issue.

He said that with only one ambulance based in Waipukurau, which made trips to Hawke's Bay Hospital and back several times a day, the station was often unattended for a large part of the day.

Mr Spotswood cited two incidents recently when no ambulance had been available, resulting in a "serious situation".

"The local ambulance officers are of top standard and carry out their duties to the highest level, but when they are directed out of the area they are unable to perform their duties locally."

He said that while he was in the fire brigade, on rare occasions, fire personnel would be there for quite a period of time before an ambulance turned up.

"What's the point of us donating to St John if they are not carrying out their duties properly?" he asked.


Central region district operations manager Steve Yanko said that while there were two ambulances based at Waipukurau, which had been the case for some time, they were never intended to be exclusively dedicated to the Central Hawke's Bay district.

"We have what we call patient-centred fluid deployment across Hawke's Bay and because of their larger populations we know that the Hastings and Napier areas will have a higher workload.

"We deploy one of those ambulances at Waipukurau to Hastings and Napier each day so we can deal with that workload pro-actively."

If the two Waipukurau-based ambulances were not able to respond to a local emergency, vehicles from Dannevirke or Hastings were deployed, he said.

"We always ensure that if one vehicle goes to help with something in Napier or Hastings that another vehicle is fluid deployed to Waipukurau."

As for the fire service having to step in, he said that's the reality of the situation.

"We have a memorandum of understanding with the NZ Fire Service who have things like defibrillators and basic first aid training so they can turn out first."

With limited funding and resources, all efforts were made to ensure adequate coverage for all areas.