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Demolition Of Unfit Ambulance 111 Communication Centre Begins

St John is pleased to announce the start of a long overdue move of its 111 emergency call and dispatch centre. The Auckland Clinical Communications Centre is the busiest ambulance 111 centre in the country, taking approximately 300,000 calls a year (57% of the nation’s calls), and has not been upgraded for almost 20 years. It is no longer fit for purpose with staff answering critical 111 calls and dispatching emergency ambulances with aging technology and equipment from a leaking building that doesn’t meet the new building code or earthquake standards and simply ‘needs knocking down’.

Thanks to an urgent helping hand from the Government in last year’s Budget19, ambulance services received a one-off funding injection of $21 million over two years to relieve some immediate pressures. A portion of that money will fund this vital project.

“Without support from the Coalition Government we could not have begun this critical work,” says St John CEO Peter Bradley. "This modernisation means improved working conditions for our emergency staff, better operational functionality, and significantly, this will reduce risks to the public associated with end of life technology and critical infrastructure.

An important part of the project is upgrading key components of the back-end critical ICT infrastructure which runs the 111 call centre. This will result in improved resilience through upgrading ageing and end-of-life hardware, improving power and network diversity, and replacing our primary data centre. Our goal is to ensure this infrastructure is fit-for-purpose and remains stable as we deliver essential lifesaving services into the future.

St John is utilising an existing building on site for the upgrade (which will be earthquake strengthened), saving approximately $10 million in building costs.

Mr Bradley says while moving staff into a fit for purpose environment to support the public’s urgent calls for ambulance assistance is a positive step, the antiquated funding model for ambulance services still needs to be addressed. St John is in discussions with Ministry of Health and ACC to develop a more sustainable future funding model to meet the New Zealand public’s needs and expectations.

“There is growing demands on our service and we urgently need similar levels of funding experienced by other essential services like Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and District Health Boards. We cannot continue providing the services we do now based on such high levels of charitable support.”

St John welcomed today the Deputy Prime Minister’s restated commitment to resolving the ambulance funding anomaly once and for all.

At a media conference today, Rt Hon Winston Peters reconfirmed his determination to support St John in achieving 90% funding of its emergency ambulance service.

St John expects the new Auckland Clinical Communications facility to open in September or October 2020 - depending on resource consents and final planning processes.


Notes to Editors

  • St John provides emergency ambulance services to 90% of New Zealanders and covers 97% of the country’s geographical area
  • St John received more than 546,000 calls across all its 111 emergency Communication Centres and treated and/or transported almost 500,000 patients in the last financial year (end June 2019). The Auckland Clinical Communications Centre received 300,000 or 57% of those calls last year
  • St John is made up of a mix of full-time paid employees and volunteer staff
  • More than 70 specialist staff work in the Auckland Communication Centre including emergency call handlers, emergency medical dispatchers, clinical support officers and nurses that triage and advise low acuity calls.
  • St John has contracts with Ministry of Health and ACC who fund approximately 72% of the operating costs for the ambulance service. The remaining 28% is funded through emergency ambulance part charges, fundraising and donations. St John’s fundraising and commercial activities also support the organisation’s charitable community programmes.
  • It costs $250 million annually to run the emergency ambulance service of which the Government provides $170 million leaving St John with a gap of $80 million. The charity attempts to bridge this shortfall through ambulance part charges and donations.

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