Budget 2019: $21 million boost over two years for ambulance services


The Government will pump $21 million into ambulance services over the next two years to relieve "immediate pressures".

Ambulance services are currently funded by the Ministry of Health and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) who take on 72 percent of the operating costs.

The remainder is funded through charges and donations, amid a growing demand for ambulance services, including in rural areas.

In a pre-Budget announcement, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Health Minister Dr David Clark announced the one-off funding to help the services figure out their long-term sustainability.

"Ambulances now respond to over 550,000 emergency 111 calls a year, with more than 440,000 calls resulting in an ambulance being dispatched," Peters said.

"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."

He said the Government has recognised concerns raised by Auckland-based St John and Wellington Free Ambulance about the suitability of the current funding model.

Health Minister Dr David Clark.
Health Minister Dr David Clark. Photo credit: Newshub

Dr Clark said 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."

But National Party leader said the boost was simply a "band-aid solution".

"I think it is a band-aid solution when these emergency services require real certainty and it is a Government that has talked a big game when it comes to well-being.

"They have got huge dollops of cash for fees-free, for Shane Jones, for Winston Peters and their pet projects."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hinted at a funding boost for ambulance services when speaking about Budget 2019 on The AM Show.

"I think it is fair to say that we do need to work on a bit of a plan. There has been some discussion for some time around the fact that, unusually... St Johns and our ambulance services aren't fully funded."

She said New Zealanders would likely find it "odd" that the system doesn't provide greater help to ambulances, and that paramedics have long publicly called on the Government for more funding.

Ambulance staff took strike action late last year over wanting extra pay for workers rostered on nights and weekends.