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Ambulance underfunding puts lives at risk

Ambulance underfunding puts lives at risk

Green MP Sue Kedgley says lives are being put at risk because of a lack of ambulance staff, and she’s calling on the Government to provide sufficient funding for all ambulances in emergency response situations to be fully crewed.

The Green Party has obtained a review of funding of ambulance services, under the Official Information Act, in which the government reveals it would cost between $5 million and $17 million for ambulances to be fully crewed.

The report was due for release in October 2003 and follows a 60,000-signature petition from the Federation of Ambulance Officer Unions of New Zealand, requesting Parliament to take action to address the adequacy of funding for crewing on ambulances.

Ms Kedgley said the ambulance service had been dogged by a charity mentality, and it was time the government acknowledged it was an essential, frontline health service, and as such needed to be funded properly.

“Five to seventeen million dollars is not a huge amount to ensure that front-line health professionals can respond properly and save lives in an emergency.”

She said government foot-dragging was putting lives at risk: “Many aspects of an ambulance officer's job cannot be carried out by an ambulance officer working alone. Precious time and lives can be lost if lone ambulance officers have to wait for back-up to arrive at serious accident sites.

“The New Zealand standard stipulates that all ambulance services providing an emergency response capability must operate with a minimum of two crew,” Ms Kedgley said. “Yet the standard is being systematically flouted, particularly in regions such as Wellington.

Ms Kedgley, who rode with Wellington ambulance officers on a fact-finding mission, said the lack of full crewing often results in two ambulances attending some emergency situations with a single ambulance officer in each ambulance, and then leaving one ambulance behind to be picked up later.

"The Government’s failure to adequately fund our over-stretched ambulance service has left it in the ludicrous situation of having to rely on pokie machines and raffles in order to function.”

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