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New ambulances to support rural communities

Written by Angie Skerrett for

The launch of a fleet of new ambulances designed for rural communities has been hailed as a big step towards improving healthcare equity for remote areas.

The new fleet of 14 Volkswagen First Response Units have been handed over to St John, and are being introduced across the country.

The new ambulances aim to improve emergency response times to isolated communities and are being seen as an important step in improving the equity and access of healthcare to all New Zealanders.

St John Assistant Director of Operations, Tony Devanney said the fit-for-purpose vehicles are smaller and nimbler than a traditional ambulance.

"They are ideal for narrow roads, difficult terrain and St John first responders working outside metropolitan areas," he said.

"These new units have ample room for treating and stabilising patients while a transporting ambulance is on the way, ensuring the best possible clinical care for our patients," said Devanney.

The East Cape's Waihau Bay was one of the first areas to receive one of these purpose-built units and Station Manager Spady Te Pou said his team of rural volunteers were welcoming its arrival.

"Apart from the modern spec, the shorter job cycle times mean volunteers can remain in their local communities and have greater flexibility," he said.

"We'll be able to make ourselves available to respond to emergencies more often, supporting the community and the health outcomes of our patients," said Te Pou.

Tony Devanney said contributions from donors around the country had made the delivery of the vehicles possible.

"Fundraising is essential to getting this new fleet on the road and we want to acknowledge those donors who have given so generously to their communities," he said.

"The development of this new First Response Unit is a great example of New Zealanders coming together to ensure all communities have access to the best emergency health care possible."

Meanwhile Head of  Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Kevin Richards said it was a privilege to provide the vehicles.

"It has been a wonderful experience working with the VW team and partners in Germany to create these world-class vehicles for rural New Zealand," he said.

Up to another 60 vehicles will be rolled out over the next two to three years.