Ambulance staff levels ‘appropriate’


A debate over staffing at Queenstown’s ambulance service has roused a government minister.

A Radio New Zealand report said yesterday St John Wakatipu was stretched and might need as many as 25 more staff.

The report quoted St John Southland Lakes operations manager, Invercargill-based Pauline Buchanan, as saying the organisation was discussing extra funding with the government.

But Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne says the story “is not representative of the real picture in Queenstown”.

In what was clearly a co-ordinated response, the same words were issued in a statement quoting Buchanan.

Dunne says by email: “The Queenstown community can be assured that the ambulance service provided by St John is appropriate and is dedicated to the care of patients in the region.”

St John’s workload in Queenstown does not justify extra staff year-round, he says. Staff levels are boosted during busy periods, such as winter and at New Year.

“In short, staff levels and ambulance resource levels are appropriate and they are reviewed constantly,” Dunne writes.

Buchanan declined to be interviewed yesterday. St John refused to comment beyond a written statement that echoed Dunne’s words.

St John staff could not immediately respond to a skydive accident in Queenstown last month because the two ambulances on duty were already committed to other jobs.

Also, a skydive company employee drove the ambulance because both St John crew were attending to the injured man.

The Otago Daily Times has been told it is not unusual for fire volunteers or police to drive ambulances if patients are critically injured.

An emergency services insider, who would not be named, says delays in attending accidents are uncommon in Queenstown.

Dunne says “performance data” from Queenstown shows the service is operating effectively and well above target.

Otago Daily Times