Air ambulance changes put patients first

Health Minister Dr David Clark says an agreement in principle for air ambulance services in the Northern Region is a major step towards a better, safer service nationwide.

The Ministry of Health and ACC are in the final stages of agreeing a three-year contract with an agency combining the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and the Northland Emergency Services Trust. Both trusts already provide services in the area.

“Air ambulances are a critical life-saving service and one that requires sustained investment. In Budget 2018 we put in an extra $82.9 million (over four years) to strengthen our air ambulance service.

“Today’s agreement in principle is part of a ten year programme lead by clinicians that will modernise our aging air ambulance fleet, increase crew numbers and reduce call out times.

“Nationally, the new contracts will mean more permanent staff on base and include an emphasis on ensuring crew and clinical staff are closer at hand to reduce call out time. We want to get expert medical assistance to people in need as fast as we can.

“This is about putting the needs of patients first and reflects the Government’s commitment to improving the wellbeing of kiwi families,” David Clark says.

The new northern region service is expected to begin later this year or early next year. Current contracts will be rolled over until the new contract formally begins. 

The service will continue to use existing bases in Auckland and Whangerei as well as maintain the existing air ambulance service provided in Whitianga.

“The northern region already has the most modern fleet in the country, and uses twin-engined helicopters. Over time we want to see the entire country covered by twin-engined machines which allow more space for treatment of patients during transit.

“Upgrading aircraft and systems will mean services are more effective and efficient. And most importantly of all they will produce better and more consistent clinical outcomes.

“Our current air ambulance services have done a great job over the years. Today’s announcement is about ensuring they are even better in future,” says David Clark.

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