The union representing ambulance officers has called on the Government to include national ambulance services under the newly-announced Health NZ to ensure the service is fully-funded and free to all.
"We strongly support the proposed changes to our health system to ensure more equitable healthcare for our communities, but the omission of ambulance officers from this agency is glaring," said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing.
"Our national ambulance service is a crucial part of our health infrastructure and ambulance officers provide essential care for our people, however the service remains fragmented and seriously underfunded."
"The Minister described the care people receive as a postcode lottery according to DHB, and the same is true of ambulance services that operate on radically different service models - some are totally free, but some impose a service charge."
"Our public health system should be free, but this will require a major funding overhaul, and in the meantime, further delays will have major health implications."
The November 2020 independent review into St John clearly identified issues of underfunding and a lack of financial sustainability. It noted "serious financial risk" for the organisation, highlighting the need to ensure its long-term financial health.
"We would never accept a quasi-charity model for funding our emergency departments, however it is the norm in the ambulance sector and this has a major impact on the ability of ambulance officers to deliver a quality service," said Mr Abbott.
"As it stands, St John is already 70 percent funded by the Government. Rolling ambulance services into Health NZ is key to improving working conditions for ambulance officers and ensuring that the laudable aims of Health NZ are manifested across our health infrastructure."