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New Zealand Health Board Swaps Air Ambulance Providers

Regulations On Single Engine Helos Factor Into The Decision

New Zealand's MidCentral Health has awarded its air ambulance services contract for patient transfers to HeliPro. The contract had previously been held by Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter operated by Philips Search and Rescue Trust.

In a news release, MidCentral Health Hospital Services operations director Lyn Horgan said: “To ensure improved efficiency, patient and staff safety and the availability of quality helicopters and fix wing aircraft and equipment, MidCentral chose to go to the market, requesting proposals from organizations with extensive experience in commercial and patient transfer service sector.

“There were two strong contenders for the contract which was decided by a panel of experts including clinicians. The decision to award the air ambulance patient transfers contract to HeliPro was a combination of many factors including: equipment, service, and reducing the time taken for patients going by road transport to waiting air services.”
 
HeliPro will be responsible for the transfer of patients from Palmerston North Hospital to other hospitals.
 
New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority regulations which prevent single engine helicopters from flying over populated areas except in an emergency were also cited as a factor in the decision. Palerston North Rescue Helicopters flies single engine aircraft, which meant that, in most cases, an ambulance was required to transport patients to the company's base in Milson, where they were loaded onto the aircraft.

Helipro, by contrast, operates two BK117 twin engine helicopters. Those aircraft can land at the hospital at any time, not just in the case of an emergency.

An official for Philips Search and Rescue Trust, which operates Palmerston North Rescue Helicopters, told the New Zealand newspaper The Dominion Post that while disappointing, the move would not affect the company's ability to respond to emergencies such as highway and farm accidents in the central and lower portions of North Island. The new contract will become effective at the first of the year.

(BK117 line drawing from file)

FMI: www.midcentraldhb.govt.nz

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