Thu 31 Aug 18.
Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said that he would be concerned if the issues raised over the potential loss of a Taupo based regional helicopter rescue service were not reflected in Ministry of Health’s final decision on future air ambulance services.
Tenders for a reshuffled air ambulance service across New Zealand closed in May with the Ministry of Health due to announce its decision shortly.
Mayor Cameron said that he along with Taupo Mayor David Trewavas and Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick supported by Rotorua District Health Board representatives met with the Minister for Health Hon Dr David Clark in April to voice the concerns of their communities.
“We all felt at the time that our meeting with the Minister was very constructive and that our concerns would be taken into account in the decision making process,” he said.
“While we all support the improved patient care objectives of the Tender process we stand firmly by our argument that the central North Island area with its unique terrain, and often extreme weather patterns, needs local pilots and crews with intimate local knowledge who are able to respond quickly to any event.
Rescue services talk about the ‘golden hour’ which refers to the first hour after a traumatic injury, when emergency treatment is most likely to be successful.
Adding an extra 20 to 30 minutes of flight time to a mountain rescue situation where hypothermia is often a factor is likely to push the arrival of emergency services outside the ‘golden hour’ window and can be the difference between life and death.
Mayor Cameron noted that local communities are always generous with donations for what they see as their local rescue helicopter service.
“With a good chunk of funding coming from public donations it remains to be seen if the loss of a rescue helicopter service would affect public donation from that region.
The Ruapehu region and our National Parks are on target to have over a million visitors per year in addition to servicing the resident population there is already a high workload.
The increasing demands on rescue helicopter services may require new thinking about how they can be funded such as a compulsory levy or insurance cover for tourists.