ST JOHN Ambulance Services PNG has opened its National Ambulance Control Centre, providing centralised co-ordination of all ambulances across the National Capital District and Central Province.

Developed with the cooperation of the Central Province government – which has placed its existing ambulance services on St John’s mapping system, the system will mean government health clinic staff won’t need to call around for an ambulance.

Instead, when a critically ill patient presents to the clinic needing emergency transport to Port Moresby General Hospital, workers can call the St John’s Ambulance Control Centre, and experienced dispatchers will coordinate the emergency response.

St John’s assistant commissioner Matt Cannon said he recalled hearing that patients were dying as health staff struggled to find an available government ambulance.

“Talking with Health Centre staff and people in the Province, it is clear more ambulances are desperately needed to save lives,” he said.

To help with this, St John’s recently received a significant funding boost from the NCD Governor to increase ambulance services, while continuing to work with the Prime Minister’s office.

A grant from the National Gaming Control Board has been put towards enhancing the existing ambulance fleet, completing the new Control Centre, starting additional staff and managers and purchase of kits and equipment.

A suite of additional ambulance call takers will begin training in the next few weeks, the group said in an announcement.

St John is working closely with supporters including Digicel, Trakpro and PNG Forest Products to ensure its communications and dispatch system is operating to an international standard, it said.

The group will also resume the sale of first aid kits and defibrillators to the public, which should help it generate funding that will be used directly to enhance existing ambulance services.

With the introduction of a more efficient communications network, St John is expecting a significant increase in demand for ambulance services.

“St John is strongly reminding the Provincial and National governments that there is still a need to increase funding and support to meet expected demand,” the group said in an announcement.

“St John estimates that at least five additional ambulances are needed in NCD, and at least ten emergency ambulances in Central Province.”

The group is currently compiling a report of incidents where demand exceeded the ability of the service to respond, which it says will form part of a submission to the National Parliament for increased funding.