Andrew McMartin |

The arrival of a new complex patient ambulance vehicle (CPAV) in Dunedin will enhance the care, comfort and safety of patients with complex health needs in Otago.

The new vehicle - the first of its kind in Dunedin and just the second for the South Island - is designed for patients weighing up to 400 kilograms, or patients whose needs go beyond what a standard ambulance can provide.

Debra Larsen, Hato Hone St John General Manager Ambulance Operations, says the vehicle - also known as a bariatric ambulance - has extra room and contains special equipment to enable patients to be moved, treated and transported safely.

“This particular vehicle contains an inflatable jack system to lift supine patients from the floor to stretcher height.

“Once the patient has been raised, they’re safely moved onto a stretcher using an air transfer mattress.”

Ms Larsen says the air transfer system can reduce the effort to lift a patient by up to 90 percent, preventing the risk of harm to the patient and ambulance staff.

The bariatric ambulance also contains a closed patient compartment for improved infection control, and an electronic stretcher which can be widened from 60 centimetres to 90 centimetres.

Ms Larsen says the acquisition was made possible thanks to the immense support of the community, generous donors, and the Dunedin Hato Hone St John Area Committee.

“We’re humbled and honoured to have had such incredible support. This new asset will help meet the needs of our changing community and achieve better health outcomes for the Otago region.”

The ambulance, which started service this month, will service Dunedin and the wider Otago area. It is anticipated the vehicle will be used about seven times per week.

Hato Hone St John also has bariatric ambulances in Christchurch, Palmerston North, Hamilton, Tauranga, as well as two in Auckland.

Complex patient ambulance vehicles are typically used in Auckland up to four times a day, and up to two times a day in other centres.

“These vehicles have more room than a standard ambulance and the equipment enables patients to be moved safely in and out of the ambulance while maintaining their dignity,” Ms Larsen says.

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