Helicopter rescues up close to 300


Almost 300 more patients were rescued by the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter service this past year.

Despite uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic the service continues to grow, Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust chairman Martin Dippie says.

Martin Dippie. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Martin Dippie. PHOTO: ODT FILES
He presented the trust’s annual report to the Otago Regional Council - which supports the trust through an annual $350,000 donation - during its meeting yesterday.

It showed 1328 people had been rescued in the 2019-20 year, which was up 11% on the previous year, and accounted for 2275 flying hours.

That was up from 1996 hours in the 2018-19 year.

Both medical emergencies and hospital transfers had increased.

But that growth was not without some challenges including cancelled fundraising events due to Covid-19 restrictions and the risks involved with transporting Covid-19 patients, Mr Dippie said.

“It was a very stressful time for everyone involved."

If a member of the team were to get Covid-19, it would shut the whole organisation down, he told councillors.

But the service was “well prepared” and successfully transported confirmed Covid-19 patients.

He was also "amazed" by the the generosity of the public, which offset some of the financial impacts of Covid-19.

The report showed a total of $819,060 was received in community donations including $25,500 from the Otago Motor Club Trust, which funded a Corplus CPR machine that enables automated CPR during flights.

Other medical equipment was also upgraded, including new stretcher bridges and a replacement trauma kit, as well as the arrival of a new Airbus H145, Mr Dippie said.

The trust made $922,797, compared with $947,264 the previous year, and spending was down from $949,899 to $711,718 this year - allowing for a $211,079 surplus.

Another positive outcome was that the Ministry of Health and ACC contract that began in November 2018 to provide rescue helicopter services across the South Island had also been confirmed until November 2022 - a further year being at the discretion of the National Ambulance Sector Office.

During the meeting, some councillors raised questions about whether there was enough contribution coming from the Southland community, to which Mr Dippie said, "There was a hole in Southland."

"We do need to go to Southland and rattle the tin a bit more.

"There is a lot of donations that come from there, but we are probably due another $100,000 to $200,000."

That was a conversation the trust planned to have, he said.

molly.houseman@odt.co.nz

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