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Firefighters need resources to take up slack

Sandra Goudie MP National Party Internal Affairs Spokeswoman

Jonathan Coleman MP National Party Associate Health Spokesman

28 November 2007

Firefighters need resources to take up ambulance slack

Volunteer fire brigades have had a 47% increase in calls to medical emergencies since 2003 and nowhere near that increase in resources, says National's Internal Affairs spokeswoman, Sandra Goudie.

The United Fire Brigades Association of New Zealand (UFBA) revealed figures at the Health Select Committee's inquiry into ambulance services that fire brigade responses to medical emergencies increased from 3,336 in 2003 to 4,910 in 2006.

"Volunteers will never hesitate to go to an emergency whenever they are needed, but no one should expect them to be under-resourced or under-trained to respond.

"If the Fire Service expects these firefighters to fill the gaps created by a shortage of ambulance personnel, they need the training and equipment to do the job correctly."

Jonathan Coleman says: "The select committee was told that the situation is so bad that in one area, south of Christchurch, 85% of the brigade callouts are for medical rather than fire emergencies.

"It's clear that the goodwill of brigades is being stretched to breaking point as personnel, many of them volunteers, are thrown into situations for which their training does not prepare them.

"This has a number of detrimental affects. Most seriously, lives are at risk when appropriately skilled assistance is not available.

"The extra responsibility and liability could well put people off becoming volunteers."

Mrs Goudie says: "Our volunteer and rural firefighters deserve more than to be thrown into the breach without the skills, equipment, and resources needed to do the job - even if it isn't the job they signed up to do."

ENDS


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