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St John supports review of air ambulance sector

18 July 2008

St John supports review of air ambulance sector

St John agrees with the key findings of the independent report on the emergency air ambulance sector released by the government today.

"We believe it is important that air ambulance services in New Zealand are rationalised to ensure New Zealanders are receiving the most efficient and cost-effective service for the investment by taxpayers and donors," St John Chief Executive Jaimes Wood said.

"Air ambulances are a vital part of the ambulance sector but should be dispatched based on the clinical needs and situation of patients. Public expectation for air ambulance has been driven to unrealistic heights. The resulting total economic cost to New Zealanders is disproportionate to needs or requirements, particularly when compared to road ambulance patient numbers and funding," Mr Wood said.

St John agrees with the report's proposals that:

* a national framework be developed to integrate air ambulance services more with the rest of the ambulance sector; with national oversight and planning

* a lead Crown funder be developed for air ambulance services

* consistent standards and service specifications for air ambulance services be introduced

* dispatch protocols be reviewed to ensure the patient's clinical need and situation are the primary determinants of air ambulance dispatch

* a funding analysis and long-term funding plans be prepared for both government and community funding streams of air ambulances

"St John wants all New Zealanders to have access to an ambulance service that is coordinated, clinically safe, effective, efficient and economic. The objective is to deliver the right resources with the required skills at the right time, with transport to the right hospital. This requires an integrated and coordinated approach to all ambulance transport modes," Mr Wood said.

"We have operationally excellent air ambulance activities in New Zealand that would stack up internationally - and their valuable knowledge and experience should be preserved," Mr Wood said.

Background:

* The best estimated annual cost of current air ambulance services is $40 million to deliver 1% of patients. This compares to our last financial year's $98 million cost to deliver road ambulance services to 86% of the population, serviced by St John.

* St John contributed to the development of the Report of the Air Ambulance Reference Group to the ACC and Health Ministers released today.

* St John provides the clinical crew for most air ambulance operators. The exceptions are Wellington, Taranaki and Auckland.

* St John dispatches air ambulances to accident and medical emergencies as the lead provider of Emergency Ambulance Communications Centre services, based on dispatch criteria agreed between road and air ambulance providers, the Ministry of Health and ACC.

* In 99% of cases where an air ambulance is mobilised, a road ambulance is already at - or on the way to - the scene, providing clinical treatment and stabilising the patient for air transport.

ENDS


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