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Sounding the alarm: A national review of the St John Ambulance service will see Queenstown lose its intensive care paramedics

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A unionist warns Queenstown’s at risk of losing its most-skilled ambos.

Under a national review of the St John Ambulance service, Queenstown loses its intensive
care paramedics (ICPs), and they’re replaced by lesser-qualified paramedics.

And the resort’s not allocated one of the rapid-response vehicles being rolled out in the bigger centres.

‘‘Queenstown’s a loser as far as retaining top-end skills, and they’ve also missed out on what’s called intensive care first-response vehicles,’’ ambulance officers unionist Calvin Fisher says.

‘‘One of the worst-affected stations is Queenstown, in this review, and it’s all about  dumbing down the qualifications and the delivery of service.

‘‘I’m astonished at the lack of interest from people in Queenstown and the greater [district] in the outcome of this last review, because the highest-qualified people you’re going to have in Central Otago will be a paramedic.’’

Mountain Scene understands three ICPs have left the station since last November, two because they wouldn’t get vaccinated, and they’ve been replaced by paramedics.

Fisher: ‘‘For people to be attracted to Queenstown [with its] cost of living and not have a
chance to get the higher salary is a real problem for St John.’’

The review’s been driven by statistics allegedly showing ICPs have been under-utilised in this area compared to others.

Phase-out of intensive care paramedics

However, Fisher says in the past the powers-that-be believed the resort deserved ‘‘the best service, and now it’s all just being taken away’’.

Existing ICPs, he suggests, are being ‘‘expected to perform at a lower level if they accept staying in the job they’re in’’.

‘‘They’ll be systematically offering [replacements] a reduced position of paramedic and a remuneration drop accordingly.

‘‘There’ll be a number of people who have spent a lot of money to get a qualification  practising at a level below the one they’re in now.’’

Pauline Buchanan, St John’s Southland/Otago district operations manager, has explained St
John Ambulance, over the next three years, is moving from a model where ICPs are deployed on ambulances, to a new model where even more highly-skilled critical care
paramedics (CCPs) are deployed in rapid-response vehicles.

However, in areas like Queenstown, Taupo and Blenheim, where the volume of incidents requiring ICP ‘‘intervention’’ is relatively low, she says ‘‘current ICPs will remain in place, with their roles to be replaced by paramedics over time and by attrition’’.

‘‘St John paramedics have upskilled significantly in the past decade and can meet the vast majority of patient needs in these areas, and when ICP or CCP level care is required, a critical care paramedic can be deployed from another location, or via air ambulance.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz