Air ambulance helicopter service

Air ambulances are more than just a transport
system. I mean they are actually part of the clinical
care pathway. They have on board the equipment and the people
with skills that are really an extension of the highest level of intensive care that the
clinical services of New Zealand can provide. I think any service needs to be reviewed to
ensure that it’s actually meeting the needs of the injured people. I mean technology changes, helicopters and
capability changes and we have a very diverse population across quite a big land mass and
the question is, is how do we service it so that injured people can actually get the same
level of care so that they can be transported from the place of injury, to the definitive
care facility that they need to attend. Helicopters being deployed to medical emergencies
usually arrive because there’s a seriously injured or ill patient who has got some chance
of dying and so not only do they need to be reached quickly but they need to have good
crew, a qualified crew, and then they need to be able and capable of taking the patient
to the hospital to definitively care for their illness. So all those things are relevant. It’s not just getting there quickly – you
have to have a capable helicopter and crew and the ability to take the patient to the
right hospital. Often with those patients there is treatment
that needs to be done at the scene and the earlier that can be done the more likely it
is that the patient will survive. One case that comes to mind is a woman that
was injured in a car crash in the Dome Valley just north of Warkworth and she was critically
injured as was her unborn baby and luckily she was attended by a helicopter crew with
capabilities to provide blood and other resources in an advanced helicopter and was brought
to Auckland hospital and survived. And I’m quite sure that in a situation where
she could not have had that pre-hospital care or brought to hospital so quickly she would
not have survived. It requires expertise at the scene to make
that call. Patients who have got critical illnesses often
need one or even sometimes two people temporarily working on them and you’ve got to have the
ability to access the whole patient. One of the problems with smaller helicopters
is their ability to access the whole patient from top to toe is very limited. So size does matter in this regard. In a large helicopter there is room to treat
people successfully. When patients get good care on route to hospital
and get taken to the right hospital, very often they survive in situations that they
would not otherwise have survived. This change is about investing in a stronger
service for all New Zealanders. We need a national air ambulance service that
is safe, reliable and delivers a consistent service for our communities but also gives
clinicians the best chance of making a difference. The change is not just about new helicopters. We’re also investing in better information
collection and a much better coordination service across both road and air that together
we’ll be able to demonstrate to New Zealanders we’ve got a safe and reliable national ambulance
service. This service will still continue to be reliant
on the generosity of New Zealanders through fundraising and the generosity of organisations
in sponsorship. While the government’s putting more money
into this service it will still be a shared model just like we have for road ambulance
services.

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