Tack­ling the St John is­sue at cen­tre stage

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By MAR­JORIE COOK

At re­cent meet­ings about the pro­jected $1 mil­lion Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal fund­ing cut, the ‘‘ele­phant in the room’’ has been St John Am­bu­lance, doc­tors say.

The South­ern Dis­trict Health Board doesn’t just have the knives out for ru­ral hos­pi­tals. It is seek­ing cuts across the board, from hos­pi­tal kitchens to trans­port con­tracts.

Wanaka doc­tors are con­cerned if Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal loses beds and jobs they will have to send more pa­tients to Dunedin Hos­pi­tal, putting pres­sure on St John.

The char­ity’s Cen­tral Otago ter­ri­tory manager Kelvin Per­ri­man was not at re­cent Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal meet­ings in Alexan­dra, Cromwell and Wanaka but is aware of the con­cerns.

St John’s $2 mil­lion op­er­at­ing bud­get for Cen­tral Otago is funded by the Min­istry of Health, ACC and dis­trict health boards. It cov­ers things like staff wages and equip­ment and ve­hi­cle costs.

Donors and spon­sors fund cap­i­tal items such as am­bu­lances, stretch­ers and de­fib­ril­la­tors.

Per­ri­man said he was talk­ing with Cen­tral Otago Health Ser­vices, which runs Dun­stan, as well as the dis­trict health board but can­not dis­cuss de­tails while the out­come of ne­go­ti­a­tions is not known.

But he wants to re­as­sure Cen­tral Otago.

Na­tion­ally, St John has long strug­gled to raise cash and vol­un­teers. Calls for sup­port to cover an­nual short­falls are com­mon.

Two years ago, St John got more op­er­a­tional fund­ing. It also restruc­tured in South­land, cre­at­ing the present Cen­tral Otago ter­ri­tory. Two more jobs were cre­ated in Wanaka and Alexan­dra got a para­medic.

Per­ri­man says the changes were needed to meet the needs of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The dis­trict’s paid work­force of 24 is now ‘‘about dou­ble’’ that of 10 years ago.

Changes are con­tin­u­ing. A new ACC con­tract this win­ter means 12 staff have been ap­pointed to specif­i­cally do sk­i­field work – eight in Queen­stown, four in Wanaka.

A Queen­stown St John am­bu­lance and crew will be sta­tioned at each of the two Queen­stown ski­fields but in Wanaka, which has three ski­fields, the sk­i­field crew will be based in town.

Ac­count­ing firm Crowe Ha­worth helped St John buy the three new $115,000 4WD am­bu­lances to be used on ski­fields, tak­ing the dis­trict fleet to 18. The mod­i­fied 4WD trucks are avail­able year-round for all off-road call-outs.

Last month, St John started a new ser­vice ded­i­cated to trans­fer­ring pa­tients be­tween Lakes Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal at Frank­ton and South­land Hos­pi­tal in In­ver­cargill.

Per­ri­man sees fu­ture po­ten­tial for a sim­i­lar ded­i­cated pa­tient trans­fer ser­vice from Cen­tral Otago to Dunedin Hos­pi­tal. It is based on ex­am­ples in Christchurch and Auck­land and pa­tients can be on the road in 15 min­utes. Air am­bu­lances would con­tinue to be used as nor­mal for ur­gent cases.

Per­ri­man said Alexan­dra, Cromwell and Wanaka am­bu­lances would con­tinue to back each other up so Wanaka’s am­bu­lances do not have to go all the way to Dunedin.

It would also con­tinue its Mon­day to Fri­day health shut­tle ser­vice be­tween Cromwell and Dunedin Hos­pi­tal.

Per­ri­man said St John was ‘‘for­tu­nate’’ to have 100 vol­un­teers at the mo­ment.

‘‘We are al­ways look­ing for fundrais­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and peo­ple to help us pur­chase new equip­ment,’’ he said.

Ac­count­ing firm Crowe Ha­worth has helped St John buy three new $115,0004WDam­bu­lances to be used on ski­fields.

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