Hato Hone St John is winter ready

Amy Milne |

Winter has arrived bringing with it rising COVID-19 cases, influenza, and other seasonal illnesses along with the subsequent increased demand and pressure on the health system, including ambulance services.

Dr Damian Tomic, Hato Hone St John Deputy Chief Executive, Clinical Services, says while winter 2024 will again challenge the whole health system, HHSJ aims to maintain a sustainable level of service during the winter months.

"Our goal is to ensure that we can continue to respond effectively to emergencies while managing the increased demand,” Dr Tomic says.

“However, despite our efforts, we anticipate that some people – particularly those with non-urgent conditions – may wait longer for an ambulance.”

Dr Tomic says to effectively manage the seasonal surge, HHSJ has begun to implement its winter plan, which includes several proactive measures.

“We have developed a range of initiatives to treat patients in their home and utilise appropriate community pathways when we can and direct the transport and flow of patients into emergency departments safely and effectively,” he says.

“It's about ensuring you and your whānau can access the right care you need from the right place, and at the right time.”

Part of Hato Hone St John’s winter plan includes improving the management of lower-priority calls.

“What this means is that if you call an ambulance for a low-acuity problem like cold and flu symptoms, you may be called back by a nurse or paramedic who will undertake additional clinical assessment and either arrange an ambulance, suggest an alternative provider, or provide telephone advice.

“In some regions, where telehealth services are available, our ambulance crews may use a telehealth consultation as an alternative to transporting a patient to an Emergency Department. These services are an important tool to support community-based management of patients, where appropriate.”

Dr Tomic says as well as making sure patients get the right care that they need this winter, HHSJ remains focused on improving its clinical capabilities and integration with the wider health sector.

“To ensure we can be there for all New Zealanders when they need us most, we are working closely with Health New Zealand-Te Whatu Ora to share, monitor and respond safely to spikes in demand and any delays that might be likely to arise along the way,” he says.

“If there are any delays, you can be assured that we have plans in place to care for patients and keep them safe.”

Dr Tomic says it’s important that New Zealanders also understand how and when to access healthcare over winter.

“If you, and/ or your whānau become unwell this winter there are a range of options you can choose to access healthcare including your own GP, Healthline and local Pharmacy. But remember that if it’s an emergency people should call 111.

“Calls will be triaged by our clinical teams who will ensure patients get the help they need when they need it.”


For further information and images, contact:

Hato Hone St John media team

PH: 0800 756 334

E: media@stjohn.org.nz


Wellington Free Ambulance media team

PH: 021 348 571 and for more info visit www.wfa.org.nz 


About Hato Hone St John

  • Hato Hone St John provides emergency ambulance services to 90 percent of New Zealanders and covers 97 percent of the country’s geographical area. 
  • Hato Hone St John is made up of a mix of full-time paid employees and volunteer staff.
  • Along with the emergency ambulance service, Hato Hone St John provides a significant number of community health programmes and initiatives which help build community resilience. They include Health Shuttles, Caring Caller, Friends of the Emergency Department, St John Youth, St John in Schools, and Therapy Pets.
  • Hato Hone St John also delivers event health services, medical alarm services, first aid training and operates retail stores across the country. 
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