St John’s path through covid

St John Mid Canterbury area operations manager Ian Rex.

St John crews in Mid Canterbury have been hit by covid but have plans in place to provide ongoing community care.

They include increasing ambulance officers, re-rostering qualified personnel into frontline roles, using ambulance assistants and managing non-urgent calls to free up 111 emergency calls.

St John Mid Canterbury area operations manager Ian Rex said Mid Canterbury had a total crew of 12 full time equivalent ambulance officers and 12 volunteers working in Ashburton, with a further six volunteers in Mayfield and eight in Methven.

There were ambulance officers in Mid Canterbury impacted by covid, Mr Rex said.

“St John ambulance is well adept at caring for all patients including those with or suspected to have Covid-19,” he said.

The officers are trained and experienced in infection control practice, and deal with infectious diseases all year round. They continue to follow strict clinical guidelines and precautions wearing Ministry of Health recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) including N-95 masks.

There had been a slight increase in incidents in the Ashburton District over the past month with on average “one additional incident per day compared with the previous two months”, he said.

Initiatives in place to increase the number of ambulances, support ambulance communications centres and manage the surge in 111 calls would ensure services would continue.

Among them bolstering recruitment and training efforts to increase the number of ambulance officers, bringing on qualified ambulance officers who work in other roles (including volunteers) to take on a full-time frontline role for a fixed period, tasking customer services staff with managing non-urgent calls to free-up ambulance communications staff to focus on 111 emergency calls and introducing ambulance assistants to support qualified ambulance officers with tasks like driving and lifting.

Nationally, St John’s emergency communications centre has been exceeding more than 2000 calls a day, 20 percent more than expected this time of year.

With high staff absentees due to illness across the ambulance communications centres and call volumes expected to remain high, anyone calling 111 for an ambulance can expect a delay before their call is answered so the public was being asked to only phone 111 for an ambulance in genuine emergencies.

“St John would like to remind people that while our ambulance staff will respond as soon as possible to life-threatening and time critical emergencies, if your condition is not urgent, we ask for your patience,” Mr Rex said.