Amy Milne |

As Cyclone Gabrielle begins to lash the top of the North Island, patients’ and ambulance crews’ safety remains paramount for Hato Hone St John (HHSJ).

Stu Cockburn, HHSJ Ambulance Controller, says the national ambulance service has put additional resources in areas in Northland, the Coromandel and Auckland and is also working closely with Auckland Emergency Management regarding medical support provision to any evacuation centres being set up.

“At this stage, we have mobilised our Major Incident Support Team (MIST) to Kaitaia to support the multi-agency response being coordinated by an Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC). Additionally, we have several MIST teams on standby across the North Island and we have liaison officers being established at various ECCs,” Mr Cockburn says.

“An extra 4WD Rapid Response Vehicle has been placed in Rodney and we have additional staff on standby, which we may use to provide additional resources in areas that become a concern.

“Many of our volunteer teams have been stood up and are providing cover in their areas . At this stage an additional vehicle is in place in Kerikeri.

“In the Coromandel, we have bolstered staffing numbers and volunteer first response units are ready to support as required. We are working with other allied health providers and identified community-based care options should transporting patients become problematic.

“We are also very grateful to our colleagues and friends at Wellington Free Ambulance who have deployed specialist rescue-trained paramedics in 4WD vehicles to Whitianga and Hicks Bay in Northern Tairawhiti to support our teams.”

Mr Cockburn says New Zealand Defence Force Unimogs are also available to use, if necessary, along with a number of other Hato Hone St John 4WD vehicles that can be used in conjunction with those resources available from other partner agencies.

“We will remain flexible and responsive to the communities’ needs as this situation evolves and it becomes clearer where our resources will be of most benefit.

“However, it is important that we continue to prioritise safety, and do not respond in conditions that may endanger our people or our patients, which means there may be instances that we are simply unable to get to our patients. We will ensure measures are in place to provide support and advice by phone and use telehealth providers as appropriate until access is achieved.

“People should still call 111 if it is an emergency, but depending on the severity of winds, we may triage their call over the phone or work with Healthline and other healthcare providers in affected areas. If an ambulance is required, there may be a delay in responding.

“We have rostered additional staff into the Communications Centre’s Clinical Support team who will review incidents and provide telephone support to crews on scene and clinical telephone advice to patients.”

Mr Cockburn says while this is an unsettling time for communities, particularly so closely off the back of the last severe weather to hit these areas a fortnight ago, whānau can do several things to keep themselves safe and well.

“Things like ensuring their prescription medications are filled and up to date in case they do become isolated or cut off due to slips or flooding. If you're unable to get out to pick up your prescriptions, contact your doctor or hauora service to see if these can be delivered to you.

“Also, keep in contact with your local health provider or hauora service if you do become unwell and phone 111 in an emergency. Remember to look out for your neighbours and check in on them, particularly elderly kaumatua or those who live alone.”

Mr Cockburn says Hato Hone St John would like to thank everyone that continues to work tirelessly to support affected communities, whether directly or indirectly.

Key points:

  • People should keep in contact with their local health provider if they do become unwell and phone 111 in an emergency.
  • Look out for their neighbours and check in on them, particularly the elderly or those who live alone.
  • Follow any updates from the local emergency management organisation.

Note to Editor:
Stuart Cockburn’s name is pronounced Co-burn


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