Saving our rescue helicopters

petition

Our communities care!!!

Signatures continue to roll in…read the comments and see how many lives have been touched and changed by this rescue helicopter…

This is one comment from a respected guide, ambulance officer and rescuer:

This helicopter, being based in Taupo means it responds quickly to the Central Plateau area when weather in other areas might prevent other helicopters from reaching this area. It is outfitted and equipped the way it is largely by public donations and suits the environments it operates in, servicing not just remote locations but also the highest altitude highways in the North Island, the two largest commercial ski-fields in New Zealand and the busiest one day hiking track in New Zealand and the largest area Lake in New Zealand.

NZ Mountain Safety Council identifies the Central North Island as an area where the highest number of outdoor activity incidents resulting in injury occur each year.

Most importantly, the intimate knowledge that has been accrued in terms of flying in local mountain weather conditions, the capabilities of the ground teams that the helicopter works with, their resources and team culture will simply not be able to be replicated by a helicopter and crew that is based out of district. This understanding of how people operates goes in both directions, with ground crews needing to train with the helicopter and crew frequently to make rescue and other emergency work go smoothly and safely.

On numerous occasions each year Greenlea Rescue is been one of several attending road crashes and other major incidents, so reducing the number of these resources is creating an unacceptable risk, especially should any of these machines experience any unforseen mechanical issues, having a quick substitute nearby will serve the public to a level that they deserve and expect.

Should an incident occur on our local mountains Greenlea can uplift a ground team and have them at the patient’s side before a Hamilton based machine could even get into the general area. Discontinuing funding for this helicopter and removing it from service will lead to lives being lost.

Local Members of Parliament, district councils, business groups and individual businesses have come out in support of the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter.

Following on from Keep the Taupo Rescue Helicopter and Joining the Rescue Helicopter dots…

On Thursday night, a colleague sent me a copy of the first part of the NASO Request for Tender document for the provision of air ambulance services across New Zealand. Friday, I was working all day on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and so have only been able to examine this document this morning. Incidentally, while up on the Crossing, yesterday, the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter performed an evacuation of a hiker with a broken ankle.

Here, regardless of whether it is operating in an air ambulance or search and rescue role, we refer to these helicopters as rescue helicopters. We do this because that it what they do, regardless of whether they are operating at the time under and ambulance or search funding stream – the same service receives funding from various government agencies depending on its role at the time.

If yesterday’s broken ankle patient had been injured crossing the street, an ambulance would have been called. In this instance, the ambulance deployed was the Greenlea Rescue helicopter, based in Taupo. Let’s not get wrapped around the axle with semantics.

NASO AA coverage current

This is the original map used by the NZ Herald and included in Thursday’s post. This image is drawn directly from the RFP. The Statement that “…The figure below illustrates the 95 percent coverage from bases that currently provide Services…” is inaccurate. This map purporting to show the bases that currently provide [air ambulance] services omits the bases at Rotorua (229 missions) and Taupo (237 missions) , bases that, according to stats published by the Herald, are busier than the base at Tauranga (203 missions) that IS shown on this map.

This map implies that existing base locations are already capable of providing credible air ambulance services to the Central Plateau. Those of us who live and work here know that’s simply not true. Even if, under the new structure, each of the proposed bases supported multiple aircraft:

the additional flying time is still a factor that cannot be mitigated away.

The crews would still lack the intimate local knowledge that makes our local rescue helicopters so effective.

While our current fight is to retain the rescue helicopter bases at Taupo and Rotorua, it’s probably worthwhile to take a look at some other aspects of the RFP document.

PC1

Performance Class 1 essentially means that a twin engine helicopter can safely land, take-off or continue in flight if it suffers the loss of an engine.

Our current single-engine helicopters operate safely and effectively. Modern single-engine helicopters are not falling out of the sky on a regular basis, here or overseas. If anything, ongoing advances in engine technology are making modern engines more and more reliable – why do you think more modern airliners e.g. Boeing 757, 767, 777 and 787 can safely operate over large bodies of water with only two engines (no spares)?

Could NASO please share the statistics and data that support this call for twin-engined helicopters with no doubt greater capability but commensurately higher operating costs? You can ask NASO for this information here: airambulance@naso.govt.nz It’s interesting to note that of all the agencies contacted since this issue erupted, NASO is the only one to not respond.

The time to have developed a national helicopter fleet was in the mid-2000s when the RNZAF replaced its existing fleet. If government agencies at the time had been able to work together, it is quite possible that a larger fleet of aircraft could have been acquired to meet not only Defence needs but those of Police, SAR and medical services…

two patient cap

How often does a rescue helicopter in New Zealand have to carry two patients? My assumption  would be less commonly than cases where there is only a single patient. More than one patient increases the requirements for clinical crew, especially where a critical patient might require the ongoing attentions of two paramedics.

St John Ambulance is moving to a single stretcher ambulance fleet. Noting that land ambulances are similarly broadly distributed, it is interesting that St John does not perceive a trend for multiple patients per vehicle…

Could NASO please share the statistics and data that support this requirement? Again we can ask them here: airambulance@naso.govt.nz.

One of the objectives for the interim Emergency Air Ambulance Service that this RFP seeks to replace was “…That it is essential that people get the right care, at the right time, in the right place from the right person...” Will NASO still be able to meet this standard, especially in regard to AT THE RIGHT TIME…?

It’s nice that NASO wants to move to a single integrated air ambulance service across New Zealand. Certainly it might make the bureaucracy easier.

But is what we have at the moment really broken? Can we afford a shift to single provider model?

Is there a single provider than can provide this service across the country?

Is this RFP ultimately just blowing in the wind…?

That NASO failed to consult with affected communities is indicative that this RFP may be driven more by efficiency than effectiveness. Surely, as part of developing the requirements for the tender, NASO would need to talk to local communities e.g. councils, Police, SAR, etc to get a feel for the true need? Surely, a savvy government ofice would ensure that affected Members of Parliament were read into the plan before the story broke…?

Something smells…

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/

Taps Off – really…?

Chapman water_0001

This attack on the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade was published in this week’s edition of the Ruapehu Bulletin. It is an apparent response to this notice published by the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade a fortnight or so ago:

As of today our water delivery price will be going up to a minimum charge of $200 then anything over the 1 hour there will be an extra charge of $25/15 minutes.
We have had to renew our water carrier approval license and also now need to do regular water hygiene checks. With part of the requirement we need to do a yearly audit so now we also have to pay the council for the water, I do want to make it clear that this is not at the council’s request it’s a requirement for our certification.
We are no longer allowed to deliver water with the same truck that was used for fire service duties so as a brigade we still wanted to maintain servicing the community in both water deliveries and fire fighting capabilities so we purchased another tanker at a huge cost to the brigade.
This is still a voluntary and non profit making service with continued running costs rising we have been forced into these changes. Any outstanding invoices owed to the brigade you have 2 weeks to clear on old pricing then from the 1st March you will be charged the new rates.
Regards
CFO Keith Watson

The Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade is as its name suggests, and like all the other fire brigades in the Ruapehu District, a volunteer fire brigade. That means that all its members freely give of their own time to provide this essential service within our communities. This commitment comes at the cost of significant disruption to personal and professional lives, is not without frequent physical risk, and comes with the sole reward of a job well done.

On top of its significant commitment to maintaining (it’s not all riding on a fire engine under lights and siren: there’s a major training requirement for all members as well) and delivering an excellent firefighting capability in Ohakune and the broader Ruapehu District, the Ohakune Brigade voluntarily provides a water delivery service in the community. The only payment sought for this service is to cover the direct costs of compliance, certification and delivery: there is no profit margin and no person gets any financial reward for providing this service.

Just a little sidenote on the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade’s tanker capability. This is community-funded i.e. the Ohakune community raised the funds for these tankers themselves. In addition to providing a great capability to Ohakune firefighting operations, the new 18,000 litre tanker (18,000 litres is about 9 times what a normal fire engine carries onboard) provides a reliable water supply for firefighting in areas not supported by mains water supplies and where there may not be an available alternate water source like a stream or water tanks.

14563427_542220202651800_3545440428665085669_n.jpg

18,000 litres of water on the hoof (c) Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade

To be this into a local context, while the main water supply in National Park Village is being repaired this week, there will be insufficient guaranteed mains pressure for firefighting in the Village. To ensure a viable water supply during this period, the big Ohakune water tanker will be ‘attached’ to any major firefighting callouts in the Village.

Chief Fire Officers are busy people. They have to:

maintain the same skills as their firefighters.

be prepared, at the beep of a pager, to deal with a range of contingencies including flooding, fallen trees, detaching roofs, assistance to ambulance, motor vehicle accidents, hazsubs spills and leaks, and  a whole raft of different firefighting challenges.

be on top of all the administration required to make a fire brigade function.

do all this without pay or reward beyond the knowledge of a job well done.

Chief Fire Officers have better things to do than endure and respond to vexatious and petty attacks from the likes of John Chapman.

John Chapman signed his letter as a member of the National Park Community Board. I have spoken with members of the National Park Community Board and at no time have any concerns regarding the water delivery service provided by the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade been raised with the Board, let alone discussed at a Board meeting or progressed to a resolution of any form. I would think if the National Park Community Board was going to adopt any resolution regarding this service it would be one of support and appreciation.

Certainly, support and appreciation has been the unanimous and common theme amongst members of the National Park community since Mr Chapman’s letter was published.

It’s unlikely but perhaps some members of John Chapman’s own community in the Waimarino-Waiouru ward have some concerns about the increases in water delivery costs. This is something that they would need to raise with the Waimarino-Waiouru Community Board, a group quite capable of managing local issues within their own ward. Not only is in appropriate for John Chapman to (ab)use his position on the National Park Community Board to launch an attack on a matter in another ward, his actions implies that Community Board in that ward is unable to function without Mr Chapman’s input. That is most definitely not the case.

comment

This from comments on the letter on Facebook. John Chapman, it would appear, is actually a local firefighter himself, rural, I believe. One can imagine that his brigade’s next training session may be somewhat ‘interesting’, the conversation potentially robust…

This is not the first time that John Chapman has (ab)used his position as a community board member to launch petty attacks against local community members. Last year he conducted a campaign against the Chair of the National Park Community Board because she would not bow down before his (allegedly) superior political experience. His motion of no confidence in the Chair was soundly defeated with community members speaking on behalf of the Chair and acknowledging her long commitment and contributions to the community.

More recently, John Chapman took advantage of his position on the National Park Community Board to read out an interminable personal statement relating to his vendetta against anti-1080 signage at Waikune. This related to provocative statements he had made on the National Park Community Facebook page – this purports to be representative of the community but is really just another soapbox for John Chapman – which had resulted in some backlash from the community. His actions on this page are totally independent of his membership of the National Park Community Board and Mr Chapman needs to learn that actions have consequences and that the Community Board is not there to act as a shield when his actions generate consequences. The targets of this vendetta attended this meeting and it is a credit to them that they calmly opted to not rise to his provocation, leaving him alone in the mud.

Perhaps it’s time for Mr Chapman to consider whether he truly does represent the community of the National Park ward. If he hopes to do more for the community, then he needs to reconsider his game plan. If he hopes to use his Community Board activities as a springboard for higher office, he should realise that his current conduct is unlikely to endear him to the voting public.

If John Chapman thinks community board membership is just about lashing out at those who dare to disagree with him, maybe he needs to stand down and seek such solace in some overseas socialist nirvana…

 

 

 

Orange | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Orange | The Daily Post

A quick lazy response…easy to trawl Picasa for images in the key of orange…

Early Ruapehu firefighters

Back in the day when daily juice was the ‘thing’…

Flight test orange @ Eglin

Seasons | The Daily Post

This week, let’s embrace the season: share an image that embodies the world or the weather where you live.

Source: Seasons | The Daily Post

Every January, the Department of Conservation and Project Tongariro host the local Mahi Aroha Summer Programme, a month-long calendar that encourages people into the outdoors and showcases local conservation projects…DSCF9471The first activity each year, on New Year’s Day, is the family kite day…
DSCF9481Even though the first of January is technically in the middle of summer, true summer here often does not kick in until February….
DSCF9486Pleasant but overcast days like this are common for this period of the season…DSCF9476

…and are no obstacle to everyone getting out and having a good time…DSCF9487

A bonus this New Year’s Day, was the first mistletoe in Whakapapa Village…