“Although we were operating the Rescue Helicopter in the South Island at the time, it was evident that there were times when you needed more than a rescue team and a helicopter. Those who were very sick and in hospital needed specialist care. They had to be transferred to a hospital that could provide advanced medical treatment. Sometimes the distances were vast and at other times the need for a pressurised aeroplane that can fly over 10,000 ft in order to fly over the Southern Alps. These pressurised aircraft keep the patient at sea level cabin pressure which is critical for very sick patients. Most of all they need to have specialised intensive care right through the journey from one hospital bed to another until specialised treatment is available at the destination.” Says John Currie who had the passion and the foresight to start this service for our communities.
When the service started it was crewed by Intensive Care Paramedics then soon after that Garden City Helicopters employed a specialist doctor as well as nurses so the patients were always receiving the same level of care throughout the transport. The service started as a small operation and has now grown to three Turbine aircraft and two bases flying over 1400 hours annually and transporting more than 1,000 patients.
In 2001 the Flying Doctor Service partnered with the CDHB and the NMDHB to provide specialised care throughout New Zealand with fully equipped aircraft and Intensive Care Doctors and Nurses to provide intensive care treatment while the patient is being transferred.
About the NZFD service
When time is of the essence and distance is an issue, the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service is the only option for many patients.
This service provides critical-care patient transfer services between hospitals across New Zealand.
As a flying intensive care unit with highly trained medical staff and specialist equipment, patients receive a seamless level of care from bed to bed- they are in the safest of hands.
The service operates 24/7 transferring critical care burn victims, spinal injury patients, neonatal transfers, trauma victims, surgery transfers, organ delivery, blood or equipment supplies.
In 2021 we were thrilled to announce our partnership with Williams Corporation Limited who have come on board as the Principal Sponsor of the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service.
The NZFD service started with 100 missions per year and quickly grew to 300 and now we do more than 751 missions from Nelson and 461 from Christchurch. The service does an average of more than 1200 missions per year. In 2020 flew 1,207 missions with over 2,000 flight hours in 2020, and this number is on the rise in 2021.
Current NZFDS Pilots – Christchurch 10, Nelson 4.
Current NZFDS Nurses- 17 full time nurses and 4 part time nurses.
Why do we need support now?
Mission numbers have increased significantly in recent years resulting in a deficit between the government funding available (DHBs) and the demand for the service.
A new purpose built patient oriented Emergency Air Facility has also increased costs and new technologies and training are available to enhance patient outcomes.