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St. John Ambulance service under ‘tremendous pressure’ with increased calls to 111

St John receives many more 111 calls than it usually expects at this time of year, putting the ambulance service under immense pressure.

Photo: St-Jean

St John said the winter demand came six weeks ahead of schedule, with Auckland paramedics most under pressure.

Deputy General Manager Dan Ohs said the high volume of emergency calls was affecting response times.

“Right now we are receiving 14% more triples than we anticipated for our upper limit at this time of year. This translates to an additional 10% demand on our ambulance staff in terms of response” , did he declare.

“The majority of patients who have an urgent condition that we treat within 15 minutes, we would like that to be much closer to eight minutes.

“The majority of patients still get a fast response time, we would like to do better.”

Watch Dan Ohs brief the media on the ambulance response:

St John has 100 paramedics sick with Covid-19, other illnesses or caring for dependents, every day.

Ohs said an ambulance would still be dispatched in life-threatening emergencies, but people with non-urgent cases could first expect a phone call from a paramedic or nurse.

If the issue could not be resolved over the phone, Ohs warned people to expect delays, with some non-emergency patients having waited up to 2 p.m. over the past week.

“These incidents are incidents that I would highlight [that] are not life threatening – this example of a 14 hour incident was a request for transport from a GP – but 14 hours is much longer than we would like to keep people waiting in the community said Ohs.

He said people with broken legs or hips shouldn’t expect long waits for help.

“I’m talking about people who call us because they’ve been to their GP and they’re frustrated that their antibiotics aren’t working for them right away. I’m talking about people who call us because they’ve run out of paracetamol. I’m talking about people who have called us because they don’t have transportation to get the stitches removed,” he said.

St John said there were five fewer ambulances on the road in Auckland on May 14 than he would have liked.

Ohs said full hospitals had delayed unloading patients from ambulance bays while staff found a place for them to go, but St John had plans with hospitals to handle the issue.

If it is not a real emergency, people are advised to call their GP or Heathline for advice.

St John said long-term vacancies had been reduced from 185 to 120 over the past six months, but that meant the ambulance service was still 120 short of its “baseline”.