Exclusive: Independent review claims St John in 'serious financial risk'

Source: 1News

St John says it will soon have to cut staff and reduce services unless it gets $80 million extra a year in Government funding.

It comes as an independent review released to 1 NEWS paints a dire picture of the organisation’s finances.

The review found that St John “has not adequately focused on controlling the organisation’s costs to the extent needed for it to live within its means”. It also found the ambulance service was funding its losses by using its cash reserves.

The review described this financial year as a “serious financial risk” and found action was needed to ensure the long-term financial health of the organisation.

The review was completed last year by Martin Jenkins but only released after 1 NEWS requested it under the Official Information Act.

St John Chief Executive Peter Bradley rejects some of the findings, but says it comes down to funding. “St John ambulance service cannot run a safe ambulance service on the funding it receives.

“Certainly our board has taken a decision recently that we will start living within our means and no longer use cash reserves from next year,” Bradley says.

“If there is no extra funding available to run this emergency service then we will reduce the service to live within the costs that the Government give us and it will be a smaller, slower service".

Bradley says a reduction in service would also mean a reduction in staff. St John is about 70 per cent Government funded, with the shortfall coming from patient fees and fundraising.

St John’s current contract with the Government ends in July and it’s hoping this was prompt an increase in baseline funding of $80 million a year.

Health Minister Andrew Little told 1 NEWS the Government has an “unwavering commitment” to the ambulance service. But he went on to say full funding of the service was not under consideration.

The Government has in recent years topped up St John’s funding, including 100 extra staff this year and funding to cover Covid-19 related costs.

The union says St John is withholding their agreed shift pay and proposing salary cuts to fully funded jobs.

FIRST Union's National Ambulance Coordinator, Sarah Stone, says St John is not able to manage its books. “What we see is from the Martin Jenkins report is that the Government gives St John money and St John can't manage that money,” Stone says.

It comes as some staff prepare to walk off the job this week.

“We would like some more support from the govt from the ministry from anybody that could step and stop these strikes from happening,” Stone says.

By Jessica Roden