Amy Milne |

Hato Hone St John continues to focus response efforts on helping those in the worst affected areas that have been battered by Cyclone Gabrielle.

While the cyclone has created significant ongoing challenges, Hato Hone St John is reassuring communities that the ambulance service is there for them.

Dave Richards, Hato Hone St John Ambulance Operations Controller, says ambulance crews have been working around the clock since the first weather warnings about the cyclone began last week.

“Significant resourcing has been deployed to the regions most affected. Work remains difficult with ongoing transport and telecommunications challenges still an issue in the aftermath of the cyclone.

“We are doing our very best to get our resources to people and meet the needs of our patients and to help relieve pressure on hospitals and primary care.

"A huge thank you to our people for all their mahi but the real heroes of this response/recovery phase are the local communities who have pulled together to support each other in such trying circumstances.

"We’d also like to acknowledge the telecommunications teams that have been working furiously to get us reconnected.

“It’s encouraging that some telecommunications are already beginning to be restored to some areas. Where it’s not, we continue to use satellite phones, radio and mobile coverage if available, as well as our people on the ground to ensure vital incident information gets through to our crews.” 

Mr Richards says that the opening of the road between Hastings and Napier was extremely welcome as it now allows Hato Hone St John to transfer patients to hospital by road safely and effectively.

Hato Hone St John is also proactively working on contacting isolated communities and is reminding people to look out for their neighbours, especially those who are more vulnerable or elderly. If possible, go and visit them to make sure they’re safe.

“It’s important we all look out for our whānau, friends and neighbours in this difficult time.”

Hato Hone St John is aware the telecommunications outages are affecting some medical alarm clients in Gisborne/ Tairāwhiti, Wairoa and Hawke's Bay.

“Our advice in this situation is not to test your alarm or continue to press it, as this will cause problems once services are back up and running.

“In the meantime, if it is an emergency and you are able to, please phone 111.”

Affected medical alarms should work once local power, cellular connectivity and phone line access are restored. 

Meanwhile, Mr Richards says the overall ambulance workload has been complex and steady since the beginning of the response.

“Workload is expected to increase as we move into the recovery phase. To ensure we can respond to urgent calls, we ask that people call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or their general practice for non-urgent help or advice," he says.

“If it’s an emergency, you should continue to call 111.”

Mr Richards says that over the next few days, Hato Hone St John will be heavily focused on ensuring sufficient resourcing is in place for the weeks ahead.

“One of our concerns right now is the welfare and resilience of our own people who live and work in these communities,” he says.

“We are putting measures in place to ensure ongoing support to staff and their whānau so they can enjoy a little respite and get back on their feet.”


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