Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Health Minister Dr David Clark have announced an investment of $21 million into ambulance services over the next two years.
“This one-off funding is expected to relieve immediate pressures and provide certainty while St John and Wellington Free work with the Ministry of Health, ACC and District Health Boards on the long-term sustainability of their services,” Winston Peters says.
St John and Wellington Free Ambulance have expressed concerns about the sustainability of the current funding model.
Currently the Ministry of Health and ACC fund approximately 72 percent of the operating costs of ambulances. The remainder is funded largely through part charges and donations.
Peters says the Government recognises the concerns about this model and is aware of the growing demand for ambulance services, including in rural areas. Ambulances now respond to over 550,000 emergency 111 calls a year, with more than 440,000 calls resulting in an ambulance being dispatched.
St John is pleased with today’s announcement, saying it brings some certainty and relief for St John and Wellington Free Ambulance as they work through future funding arrangements.
“It sends a strong signal that Government has listened to our serious concerns and wants to support the growing demand on our services and the valuable skills and innovation we provide,” says St John Chief Executive Peter Bradley.
The $21 million will relieve some of the immediate pressures St John is facing like moving its 111 Clinical Control Centre people out of a leaky building and into a fit for purpose space. It means the service can recover, and continue to pay, the costs associated with extra frontline paramedics in Christchurch (recruited in February) and they can now increase frontline paramedic numbers in Auckland.
Mr Bradley says these first steps towards addressing an antiquated funding model are positive and he is optimistic they signal emergency ambulance services moving closer to the funding support experienced by other essential services like Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and District Health Boards.
One thing that won’t change right now is St John’s charity status and it will still need the support of New Zealanders through donations and part charges for ambulance services.
St John and Wellington Free Ambulance will submit their full funding request – off the back of their initial bid last December – to Government by the end of this year.