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New Christchurch Hospital Helipad Gets Its First Touchdown

A Mid-Canterbury family are about to be the first people to touch down on the new rooftop helipad at Christchurch Hospital Hagley – but this time no one will be critically ill.

The inaugural landing is happening on Tuesday 4 August 2020, when Canterbury’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter will land on the helipad with the Murney family on board. The family will walk around the helipad and see the rooftop clinical support unit where patients can receive specialist emergency care on touchdown, before taking off again.

Willie Murney won the right to be the first to land on the helipad at last year’s Māia Health Foundation Feast event, where the helipad landing was up for grabs as an auction prize. GCH Aviation have generously supported the auction prize by arranging for the family’s flight to be taken in its new Airbus H145 rescue helicopter.

Joining Willie on the flight is his mum Kate, for whom the landing will be an especially poignant moment. Kate was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital in December 2013 critically ill with acute septicemia.

Kate Murney says landing on the rooftop helipad will be a special moment.

“We have been supporters of Māia Health Foundation from the very beginning as we knew how important it was for our community to have this future-proofed helipad. To have been part of the journey and now to be the first to land on it – it’s pretty cool,” says Kate Murney.

Kate Murney was a key spokesperson for the Māia Health Foundation’s 13-Minute campaign, during which $1.1 million was raised towards the helipad in just 13 weeks. Thirteen minutes is the average time it takes to transfer a patient from the existing helipad in Hagley Park to Christchurch Hospital.

“Our family still vividly remember waiting at Christchurch Hospital for mum to be transferred from the helipad at Hagley Park to the hospital. That was the longest 13 minutes ever – a simply excruciating wait. We are so delighted that other families are going to be saved that precious time, and to have a clinical support unit right there when you get off the chopper – well that’s just an incredible bonus,” says Willie Murney.

Māia Health Foundation raised $2 million to future-proof the helipad, making it 30% bigger than initially planned. That means two helicopters can access the helipad at the same time and long-range aircraft can land, extending coverage across most of the South Island. The extra funding also provided upgraded helipad systems to ensure it can still operate even in adverse weather conditions and the building of a clinical support unit on top of the helipad to enable specialist treatment immediately upon touchdown. It is the only helipad in New Zealand to have such a unit.

There are expected to be about 800 landings each year at the Christchurch Hospital Hagley helipad.

Māia Health Foundation Chief Executive Michael Flatman says this future-proofed helipad means Christchurch Hospital will have the facilities to keep up with this growth.

“Canterbury now boasts the most advanced helipad in New Zealand and the country’s only rooftop clinical support unit. It’s a game-changer and really will ensure that emergency care at Christchurch Hospital is truly world-class. It’s Māia’s mission to take health services from good to great, and the new future-proofed helipad will certainly help achieve that,” says Michael Flatman.

GCH Aviation Group Marketing Manager Caroline Blanchfield says this vital infrastructure will also allow our Nelson Marlborough and West Coast rescue helicopters to access hospital care for our patients when time is critical.

The helipad will be operational when the Christchurch Hospital Hagley building opens in November this year.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is expected to land on the Christchurch Hospital helipad, with the Murney family on board, at approximately 10.30 am on Tuesday 4 August.

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