St John is to receive a one-off boost of $21 million over two years.
The budget announcement from the Government is happy news for the organisation, which says the funding will provide some certainty and relief for St John and Wellington Free Ambulance (WFA), as they work through the detail of what future funding arrangements will look like with the Ministry of Health and ACC.
“It sends a strong signal that Government has listened to our serious concerns and wants to support the growing demand on our services and the valuable skills and innovation we provide,” says St John Chief Executive Peter Bradley.
“St John is a real success story. Our paramedics, clinicians and 111 call handlers consistently provide a high-quality service to New Zealanders and play an increasingly important and unique role in the wider health system. We deal with more complex conditions and decision making, using a wide range of clinical pathways and prehospital care.”
This non-recurring budget uplift will relieve some of the immediate pressures St John is facing like moving its 111 Clinical Control Centre people out of a leaky building and into a fit for purpose space.
It means the service can recover, and continue to pay, the costs associated with extra frontline paramedics in Christchurch (recruited in February) and they can now increase frontline paramedic numbers in Auckland, says Peter.
He says these first steps towards addressing an antiquated funding model are positive and he is optimistic they signal emergency ambulance services moving closer to the funding support experienced by other essential services like Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and District Health Boards.
One thing that won’t change right now is St John’s charity status and it will still need the support of New Zealanders through donations and part charges for ambulance services.
“We’ll still need to fundraise for about 28 per cent of our costs and will continue to rely on the generosity of New Zealanders to maintain services until the much-needed overhaul of the existing funding arrangements,” says Peter.
St John and WFA will submit their full funding request - off the back of their initial bid last December - to Government by the end of this year.
Securing the future of ambulance services
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Health Minister Dr David Clark announced extra support for road ambulance services to help them plan for a secure long-term future so they can continue providing life-saving care to Kiwis.
“New Zealanders know we have high quality ambulance services in St John and Wellington Free Ambulance, but we can’t take them for granted,” says deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
“There is a growing demand for ambulance services, including in rural areas. Ambulances now respond to over 550,000 emergency 111 calls a year, with more than 440,000 calls resulting in an ambulance being dispatched.
“All New Zealanders value the vital work that paramedics, clinicians and 111 emergency call handlers perform day in and day out to improve patient outcomes.
“Currently the Ministry of Health and ACC fund approximately 72 per cent of the operating costs of ambulances. The remainder is funded largely through part charges and donations and the services will continue to rely on community generosity for these.
“We recognise the concerns raised by St John and Wellington Free about the suitability of that funding model.
“That’s why the Government is investing $21 million into our ambulance services over the next two years. This one-off funding will relieve immediate pressures and provide certainty while St John and Wellington Free work with the Ministry of Health, ACC and District Health Boards on the long-term sustainability of their services,” Winston Peters says.
Health Minister David Clark says the two-year package comes on top of a $17.2 million increase in operational funding (over four years) as part of Budget 2019.
“Increasingly paramedics and clinical staff are dealing with more complex conditions and decision-making while seeing and treating patients in their own homes and providing a critical link with other parts of the health system.
“We need to make sure that we’re resourcing these essential services appropriately for the important work they do.
“Our ambulance services deserve a secure and sustainable future. Today’s announcement gives us time to do the work to make sure that happens,” says David Clark.