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Measures in place to provide air ambulance service

Media Statement

15 August 2003

Measures in place to provide air ambulance services in Auckland, following ChildFlight Trust closure.

The Ministry of Health says an interim solution to closure of the ChildFlight Trust in Auckland has been put in place, and talks are continuing to find a permanent solution as soon as possible.

The Ministry has been in talks with a number of existing providers of air ambulance services, who are able to assist with air ambulance transfers.

Providers in Wellington, Christchurch and Wanganui, who have pressurised fixed wing aircraft, have indicated they are prepared to work together to provide fixed wing air ambulance transfers for children and adults referred to Auckland hospitals.

The owner of the plane previously used by the ChildFlight Trust, Air Works, has reassured the Ministry and the clinicians in Auckland that the plane remains available and ready to go at a moment's notice.

Air Works has also agreed to work with St John Ambulance in the immediate future to coordinate communications for transfers.

Dr Pat Tuohy, the Minstry's Chief Advisor, Child Youth and Health, says all transfers will be able to go ahead, using the most appropriate option for each situation.

"All children who have needed medical transfers since the Trust closed yesterday morning have been transferred. Parents should be assured that this interim solution offers substantially the same service as the ChildFlight Trust was offering."

"With the cooperation of Air Works, we are able to use the same plane, the same pilots, and the same paediatric intensive care staff from Starship who were involved with ChildFlight."

"The situation has required co-operation and extra effort from other existing providers," Dr Tuohy says.

All District Health Boards have been informed of the situation, and paediatricians have been asked to contact the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Starship Hospital prior to undertaking any air ambulance transfers.

Greenlane Hospital clinicians have also been informed and will work with PICU for any transfers of children with heart problems who need to be transferred to Greenlane Hospital.

Clinicians at National Women's Hospital are also aware of the new arrangements, but interregional transfers of neonates are largely unaffected as there are five regional centres that provide services for sick neonates.

"These are interim measures, and it will take more time to get a comprehensive paediatric ICU transfer service up and running again," says Dr Tuohy.

"The main aim is to get a full air ambulance service for children and adults based in Auckland within the coming weeks."

Dr Tuohy says the cooperation and coordination from existing providers with fixed wing aircraft in Wellington, Christchurch and Wanganui, as well as other medical air services around the country, has been vital. He says the offers of assistance from Air Works, St John Ambulance and the Auckland District Health Board have assisted the Ministry to ensure the service continues.


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