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The rescue helicopter service took part in a record number of rescues and flew 30% more mission hours than last year.
Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust trustee Stephen Woodhead, trust secretary manager Vivienne Seaton and HeliOtago managing director Graeme Gale presented the trust’s annual report to their major funder, the Otago Regional Council.
Mr Woodhead said there had been significant growth in the number of patients dealt with by rescue helicopters over the past year.
Helicopters had picked up 1703 patients across the lower South Island last year, an increase of 28%, which meant helicopters were attending four or five emergencies every day.
"When you look at the total number of hours flown ... 2949, that’s eight hours a day," Mr Woodhead said.
Because many life-saving procedures could not be undertaken outside Dunedin, HeliOtago and the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust played a vital role in retrieving patients for medical emergencies and transfers, as well as responding to accidents and search and rescue operations, the trust and council said in a joint statement.
The trust’s presentation to councillors last week highlighted the challenges some funding groups had because of restrictions on gatherings due to Covid-19.
But they said groups had changed plans and the long stretch of Alert Level 1 without restrictions in the first half of 2021 allowed a variety of fundraising activities to go ahead.
The council donates $350,000 a year to the trust.