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NZ to get 375 new medics by 2021

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/05/2017

Nearly 400 new emergency medical jobs will be created over the next four years to relieve single officer crews, but the ambulance union has accused the government of taking shortcuts.

An extra $59.2 million will be spent to double crew all road ambulances with 375 new recruits by 2021, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced on Sunday.

"Double crewing all road ambulance call outs will help ensure patients are being provided with the best care possible, as well as support the safety and wellbeing of our dedicated paramedic workforce," he said.

It will be funded by $31.2m from Vote Health and $28m from the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Almost all crews in Wellington are double staffed, but last year in the rest of the country about 38,000 call outs were attended by single crewed ambulances.

The government expects about 6000 fewer incidents each year will require two ambulances to respond.

But Ambulance Professional First spokeswoman Lynette Blacklaws says almost 300 of those jobs will be emergency medical assistants who receive just three weeks training and can't practice without supervision.

She says thousands of qualified students and volunteers who can administer medicines and lifesaving treatments to patients are the ones best placed to end single crewing, not assistants.

"We were promised the end of single crewing by 2018. Instead what we are getting is 'assisted single crewing' by 2021," she said.

Christchurch ambulance officer Dean Brown said supervising an assistant could be a distraction to a qualified officer already treating the patient while a second qualified medic allowed for peer review and a higher level of care.

Dr Coleman said the medical assistants had much more intensive training than volunteers and offered the best mix of people according to international best practice.

He didn't have a figure on how much it would cost to deliver 375 fully trained paramedics.

"The most important thing is to get two trained people on each ambulance," he said.

St John New Zealand boss Peter Bradley, who joined ministers for the announcement in Auckland on Sunday, said EMAs were an improvement on the current system.

"There certainly will be a paramedic on each team and emergency management people have a level of skill that will be able to assist the paramedic," he said.

The staff allocated to each crew will be determined based on a review of ambulance stations and discussions with communities about meeting their needs.

NZ First leader Winston Peters described the offer as blunt and a "blister patch".

"Today's announcement of 375 extra medical personnel will be welcomed only because ambulance services are desperate," he said.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced that air ambulances facing significant increases in demand would also receive additional funding.

"Through Vote Health we are also investing $21m over the next four years which will support a new funding arrangement for emergency air ambulance services and ambulance communications centres," he said.

WHERE THE MEDICS WILL GO:

Auckland - 33

Canterbury - 36

Central East - 59

Central South - 65

Central West - 73

Northland - 39

Southland/Otago - 31

Tasman - 39.

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