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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Amberley St John is receiving a huge boost in personnel, with six paid staff joining the volunteer base.

Culverden-based Amuri St John and Kaikoura St John are also getting extra fulltime, paid staff to provide seven-day-a-week paramedic coverage across their regions, and to support double-crewing of ambulances.

North Canterbury territory manager Cole Gillman says the staffing comes as part of the Crown’s move to ensure double-crewing of all ambulances by the end of 2021, to make it better and safer for patients and staff .

“It is very, very exciting,” Mr Gillman says. Staffing Amberley with paid personnel is the “jewel in the crown”, he says.

“Amberley is currently a volunteer-only station in an area where the population is booming.” Its volunteers will now be supported by three paramedics and three emergency medical assistants by June 1, providing a fully staffed seven-day-a-week service.

He says it is important to acknowledge the hard work of the volunteers at Amberley who have kept the station running.

“We are not casting them out, but supplementing their efforts with paid staff,” he says. “Volunteers are the cornerstone of what we do.”

Culverden-based Amuri St John and Kaikoura St John will also get extra staff.

A second paramedic will be employed in Culverden, and another paramedic and two emergency medical assistants will join the Kaikoura team.

Mr Gillman said he had looked at the workload of all centres and found double-crewing of ambulances at peak times, particularly at weekends when people were playing sport and doing adventurous activities, was difficult.

He says the paramedics at Culverden and Kaikoura work 9am to 5pm on weekdays, while Amberley crews are all volunteers.

Volunteers had provided great service, but having extra, paid staff in Amberley would ease the workload on them.

Mr Gillman says there is a strong volunteer team in Culverden, which has the capacity to crew an ambulance. The extra paramedic will allow for the provision of a second crew, and help boost paramedic coverage to seven days a week.

Kaikoura was slightly different as it had a more transient population and, until Covid-19, a big visitor industry.

A paramedic was available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and outside of those hours, it relied heavily on volunteers.

‘‘That will change, and it is really exciting — but we still need our volunteers,’’ Mr Gillman says.

Recruitment for the new positions had already started and it was hoped to have new rosters and delivery of the new services in place by June 1.

Mr Gillman says the paramedics will also be valuable mentors, and help the development of new volunteers.

He says there is still more work to be done in the Hurunui district.

Meanwhile, in the Waimakariri district, which was closer to Christchurch City, more volunteers were available because of the population base.

In Rangiora, a paramedic, supported by the Canterbury District Health Board, was available. If a person called their local medical centre after-hours and spoke with a triage nurse, they could be assisted by the paramedic, who would visit their home.

‘‘It is a pretty cool initiative,’’ Mr Gillman says.