Mayor disagrees with New Zealand Air Ambulance shake-up

A Mayor in New Zealand has called the New Zealand air ambulance review published last week ‘totally unacceptable’. The new plans would see rescue services be withdrawn from some areas and redistributed across the country, specifically Te Anau, an area that Southland District Mayor Gary Tong has jurisdiction over.

Although the proposals have not yet been finalised according to a Ministry of Health Community and Ambulance Manager Andrew Inder, the possible loss of air ambulance services from the area raised ‘serious concerns’ for Tong, who then challenged those making the decisions to ‘come down here and talk with those at the coalface’.

“I have personally been involved in hundreds of rescues, body recovery and medical related events that have required the services of air rescue,” Tong said. “I am extremely proud of the work done by our volunteers along with the competent flying capabilities of man and machine in the extreme conditions that Southland, in particular Fiordland, off-shore islands and our coastline are known for.”

The Ministry of Health, the Accident Compensation Corporation and district health boards, through the National Ambulance Sector Office, are leading an air ambulance co-design project, saying that it is because the current model is unsustainable.

Inder added in response: “Air ambulance helicopter services are a critical part of how we respond to health emergencies in this country, how we get people to the right care at the right time and we know how much our communities rely on them. The challenge is how to keep those services fit for purpose in the future as service complexity grows. The current helicopter fleet has an average age of 29 years and one-third of the 20 primary air ambulance helicopters are single engine and over time will need to be replaced with more modern double engine helicopters.”

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