St John responds to more stabbing, gunshot injuries


    STATISTICS released by the St John Ambulance service revealed a 66% increase in callouts to stabbing and gunshot-related incidents in the Otago-Southland region last year.

    St John staff responded to 58 callouts of this nature during 2021 compared to 35 callouts in 2020.

    Further statistics revealed a 40% increase in the attempted suicide calls in the Otago-Southland region in comparison with the national average of 30%. Staff attended a total of 758 callouts compared to 543 in 2020.

    St John Otago-Southland area operations manager Braden Stark said the data changes also aligned with national statistics.

    Mr Stark said the past two years had been particularly difficult for everyone, including young people who had to endure ongoing disruption to their daily lives because of Covid-19.

    The organisation responded to more than half a million emergencies each year throughout New Zealand, 36,689 of those were based in the Otago-Southland area.

    St John deputy chief executive of ambulance operations Dan Ohs said the increase in the number of mental health incidents was concerning and could be attributed to the impact of Covid-19 or the lockdowns.

    “We continue to respond to very distressed and vulnerable patients but the most disturbing trend out of these types of incidents, is the number involving patients aged under 14.

    “[Nationally] This age group had a 36% increase in 2021 (up 49 patients to 186 patients) compared to the previous year (137 patients) and was 77% higher compared to 2019 (105 patients).”

    But New Zealanders’ reduced movement, particularly in Auckland due to extended lockdowns, resulted in few trauma-related incidences but overall 111 call volumes increased nation-wide by about 9.6% on the previous year.

    2021 was another extremely busy year with the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to create ongoing challenges across the emergency ambulance service, Mr Ohs said.

    The increased callouts, combined with added safety precautions at the scene, during transport and at hospital, were having a compounded affect on response time.

    Mr Stark said establishing double-crewed ambulances had helped staff to cope better with the increased demand and stress associated with the job.

    The double crew change had particularly benefited rural areas as it had made increased safety for ambulance officers and provided better patient care, he said.

    “Our ambulance staff are trained to respond to all types of situations including traumatic incidents, and the nature of our work can make our people vulnerable.

    “St John offers a range of wrap-around well-being resources and services… to support our people… and recognise the signs of decreased well-being.”

    One-on-one debrief sessions were provided after major incidents.