Where does NZFDS operate?
The New Zealand Flying Doctor Service is part of a nationwide network of integrated air ambulance services providing specialist medical care for patient transfers and retrievals.
As such, the Service operates from its bases in Christchurch and Nelson to Invercargill in the South, Auckland in the North, Chatham Islands to the East and Norfolk Island to the West. Specialised advanced medical care facilities are now mostly spread throughout the main metropolitan centres in New Zealand, for example; Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland, Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch etc. For this reason it is imperative that New Zealand operates an efficient and effective network of air ambulances for the transport of patients.
As our main operational bases are in Christchurch and Nelson, a high proportion of localised missions are flown between our own regional medical facilities.
West Coast - Population 31,000
Greymouth Hospital on the West Coast is our most frequent destination. Flight time from Christchurch Airport is approximately 30 minutes. While for daylight flights, the Greymouth Airport is situated adjacent to Greymouth Hospital, there is no direct air access at night. In this case the team lands in Hokitika and takes a 40 minute ambulance trip up to Greymouth.
Greymouth provides the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service with a variety of work including paediatric, obstetric, trauma and nurse escort missions.
The West Coast population of 31,000 becomes considerably larger during tourist season and there is a sharp increase in the number of transfers involving road trauma.
Buller Hospital is Westport’s Primary hospital providing general medical services. Flight time here from Christchurch is approximately 40 minutes. Buller is a GP run hospital and most patients get transferred to Greymouth.
Canterbury - Population 465,000
Christchurch Hospital is the largest hospital facility in the South Island and as such becomes the central focus for our Service to transfer patients from outlying regional facilities and back again.
At the same time, the Service also transfers patients from Christchurch to specialist facilities in other urban centres such as Wellington or Auckland. In the case of closer facilities such as Ashburton, Timaru, Waiau and Kaikoura, the Service utilises the Rescue Helicopters for patient transfers.
Ashburton Hospital has 74 beds and annually admits just under 5000 people. Helicopter flight time between Ashburton and Christchurch is approximately 25 minutes each way.
Ashburton has tertiary diagnostics (CT and MRI) and a consultant surgeon and physician run the hospital with house officers. Trauma patients are usually stabilised and transported to Christchurch Public Hospital. No long-term ventilation is available at Ashburton.
South Canterbury - Population 54,000
Timaru Hospital offers trauma services with specialist cover for general surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology and level 4-5 ICU/ CCU (8 bed unit) run by an anaesthetist. The ICU can provide long-term ventilation. Helicopter flight time is approximately 45 minutes each way. There is limited cardiology support.
Nelson /Marlborough - Population 143,028
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board operate two general hospitals in Blenheim (Wairau Hospital) and Nelson, along with two smaller rural hospitals and health centres (Murchison and Golden Bay).