Growing need for Health Transport Services to support ageing population

Elliot Steel |

A report released today by St John shows a burgeoning need for coordinated, free or very-low-cost health transport services at a national level to support New Zealand’s ageing population.

St John Director of Community Health Services, Sarah Manley says St John is making a significant impact in communities served by its health shuttles, but is calling for more support from other NGO’s and Government to improve equity of access into the future.

“In the 2017 calendar year, St John invested $2.76m into provision of 54 health shuttles on the road, completing almost 75,000 client trips.

“46 percent of clients said they had no other option to get to their health appointments. That’s tens of thousands of GP visits, therapy appointments and scheduled surgeries that otherwise wouldn’t happen, or would present financial challenges to patients and their families.

“St John is proud to provide this service and we thank our 600 plus volunteers putting in more than 61,000 volunteer hours who make this happen. This service improves accessibility, independence, and most importantly improves health outcomes in our communities.

Ms Manley says the report identifies a significant opportunity in the health transport space for service providers and Government to come together to form a strategy for the future.

St John is calling for a national symposium on community transport to take place within the next two years to discuss the future needs, challenges, and ideas to continue improving social and health equity by developing new services in areas of need.

Ms Manley says other areas of focus should include remote and rural areas, improving social connectedness, consistent delivery models and ‘by Māori for Māori’ health shuttle services.

For health shuttle client Mark and his wife, in their 80’s, “the service is a lifeline”. Clients say the service is easy, they’ve made friends, feel safe, and it’s the only way for them to get to their appointments.

“If we didn’t exist, whose responsibility would it be? No single agency owns the community transport issue or takes responsibility for resolving it. We transport hundreds of people every week and save tax payers a lot of money. Centralisation of services drives the need for community transport, especially for our rural communities.”

St John intends to take the conversation to Parliament with an event to promote the Social Impact Report in November. The report is available online here.

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