Joining the Rescue Helicopter dots…

This Ministry of Health image illustrates the 95 percent coverage from bases that currently provide services. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Following on from yesterday’s post on the planned demise of the vital Taupo rescue helicopter service

This image is taken from the NZ Herald story this morning confirming NASO plans to discontinue rescue helicopter services from Taupo and Rotorua. It is credited “This Ministry of Health image illustrates the 95 percent coverage from bases that currently provide services.”

It is misleading, perhaps deliberately so…It implies that this coverage is provided from the bases (red dots) shown on the map but omits the two bases in the central North Island at Taupo and Rotorua. Only the blindest of the blind could not see the bright smudge in the centre of the North Island that represents that Taupo rescue helicopter’s main operating area i.e. Tongariro National Park, Tongariro Forest Park and the Desert Road.

The NASO web page has provides some limited background on its new model for air ambulance services…apparently it will all be wonderful…further information is available on the government tenders page…

NASO.JPG

…but you have to be a registered supplier to actually access the tender documents…so much for open government…

More and more, this reeks of a bureaucrat-driven efficiency plan under the guise of ‘government’…

Rescue helicopters based in Tauranga, Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Hamilton cannot adequately service the Taupo and Ruapehu dependencies as well as their own.

  • They are already busy enough
  • Their response times, assuming availability, are too long.
  • They lack the intimate knowledge of the Ruapehu area that makes the Taupo rescue helicopter so successful.

Any presentation to the contrary is misleading and dishonest. Even if the numbers of helicopters at those more remote base locations are doubled, that does not address the issues of response times and local knowledge.

The Herald reports the following rescue helicopters stats from 2017:

Hamilton – 654
Palmerston North -286
Taupo – 237
Rotorua – 229
Tauranga – 203

Does NASO seriously expect Hamilton, Palmerston North, and Tauranga to absorb another 450+ flights each year…? Seriously…?

Visit the petition page. Read some of the comments. See how many lives have been touched by this vital and proven life-saving service.

When someone dies because there is no rescue helicopter, who carries the can? Not some faceless gnome in NASO, that’s for sure…

Keep the Taupo Rescue Helicopter

The Greenlea rescue helicopter at work on Mt Ruapehu. Photo / Supplied

Image (c) Greenlea rescue Helicopter

It never stops…the National Ambulance Service Office (NASO) is operated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). We learned this morning that the Taupo rescue helicopter has been excluded from the list of air ambulance services to be provided by NASO from November 2018.  The Rotorua rescue helicopter is, apparently, also off the list.

This means that air ambulance services for the Central North Island will now be dependent on helicopters based in Hamilton, Palmerston North, or New Plymouth; in extreme cases, support may be available on a longer notice to move from 3 Squadron, RNZAF, based at Ohakea.

Even cross-country, and assuming they are not already tasked in their own districts, there response time is considerable longer than that of the Taupo rescue helicopter. The crews of these other helicopters, no matter how capable, lack the same intimate knowledge of this district that enables the Taupo crews to slip in under the weather to pluck off the injured and infirm.

In some cases, this local knowledge means that the Taupo helicopter will be the first responding ‘appliance’ on the scene in isolated areas with challenging road access…often providing the confirmed location that allows those other services to navigate their way to the scene.

I could not count the number of emergency responses that I have been involved in over the four plus years since I started to work here where the Greenlea rescue helicopter has provided critical support and saved lives.

To protect this vital and proven life-saving capability, we need to reshape perceptions in the capital. At the moment, one of the lost effective ways to do this is to contact the Members of Parliament in the affected districts:

Louise Upston is the MP for Taupo

louise.upstonmp@parliament.govt.nz

@LouiseUpston

https://www.facebook.com/louiseupstonmp/

Ian McKelvie is our MP here in the Rangitikei district

ian.mckelvie@parliament.govt.nz

@ianmckelviemp

https://www.facebook.com/IanMcKelvieMP/

Submissions don’t need to be long and certainly not emotional (doesn’t help – trust me!). Keep it simple, something like:

I am writing to you with regard to this article in the Herald http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12025346&ref=twitter yesterday.

It pretty much speaks for itself. It looks like some efficiency-driven initiative that will have a massive impact on the Ruapehu and Taupo districts – I also understand that the intention is to no longer support the Rotorua rescue helicopter as well.

The Taupo rescue helicopter provides and vital and proven life-saving capability in the Ruapehu and Taupo districts. Helicopters from other areas like Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Hamilton are already very busy and their crews lack the intimate local knowledge necessary to operate in and around Tongariro National Park. Gone are the days when we could rely on a timely intervention from a RNZAF Huey, when civilian rescue helicopters are not available or cannot operate due to the weather.

It would be much appreciated if you could express the views of this community to colleagues in the Ministry of Health and Accident Compensation Corporation and promote the retention of this vital resource.

No one else will fight this battle for us. Email, Facebook, Twitter etc all give us the tools to stand up for ourselves. The loss of the Taupo rescue helicopter doesn’t just affect us who live here, it has negative implications for everyone who passes through Ruapehu and Taupo.

Let’s keep this flying…

Edit: Just in from Phillips Search and Rescue Trust, that operates that Greenlea Taupo rescue helicopter:

“Thank you for your expression of support for the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter.

Philips Search and Rescue Trust, operators of the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter, intend to fight to retain the base for the people of, and visitors to, the Taupo and Central Plateau region.

Taupo’s local MP is Louise Upston and you may like to write directly to her in support of retaining the Taupo based rescue helicopter service. As this is a Central Government issue you may also like to write to the Minister for ACC, the Honourable Iain Lees-Galloway.”

There you go, folks, the ball is in your court if this impending loss affects or concerns you…

iain.lees-galloway@parliament.govt.nz

@IainLG

https://www.facebook.com/ileesgalloway/