Air ambulance changes will strengthen service

Health Minister Dr David Clark says a second agreement in principle for air ambulance services covering the North Island south of Auckland is a key part of an improved national service.

The Ministry of Health and ACC are in the final stages of agreeing a four-year contract with an agency combining a number of trusts already operating in the central region. Today’s agreement in principle follows the recent announcement covering Auckland and Northland.

“Modernising our air ambulance services is a major undertaking, and the Government invested an extra $82.9 million (over four years) into these services in the 2018 Budget. These changes will deliver a safer, better service that is firmly focused on patients,” says David Clark.

“This is part of a ten year programme, led by clinicians, that will increase crew numbers, reduce call out times and ensure all our air ambulance helicopters are twin-engined, allowing more space to treat patients while in the air.”

“Ultimately this will mean services are more effective and efficient. And most importantly of all they will produce better and more consistent outcomes for patients.”

Within the central region concerns were expressed about proposals to replace bases in Rotorua and Taupō and instead provide coverage with helicopters from neighbouring centres.

David Clark says that feedback has been listened to, and a base will continue to operate from Taupō.

“Taupō’s high volume of search and rescue operations means it makes good sense to have a shared emergency response approach at this base. However the Rotorua base will not be part of the new contract.”

The Trust operating in Rotorua is part of the new contracted service for the central region, but it will operate from other bases in future.

The Rotorua region will be covered by helicopters in Taupō, Tauranga and Hamilton, with the response times estimated to be the same or faster than under the current model. Rotorua does not currently have paramedics on site, while Hamilton is moving to 24-7 staffing and Tauranga has paramedics on hand during the day. Rotorua is 14 minutes flying time from Tauranga; 18 minutes from Taupō and 26 minutes from Hamilton.

“I accept that there will be some unease in Rotorua about this change. To reassure the community that it will continue to receive a consistent, quality service a new clinical oversight group will be created to monitor the impact of these changes.

“Our current air ambulance services have done a great job over the years. Today’s announcement is about ensuring they go from strength to strength,” says David Clark.

NOTE: The new central region service will start 1 November. An announcement about a separate contract covering the southern region – the South Island – will be made later this month.