New data shows New Zealanders are getting to hospital faster, thanks to the Government’s investment in the modernisation of in the country’s air ambulance service.
Government funding of $82.9 million in Budget 2018 saw the replacement of single-engine helicopters with larger, safer and faster twin-engine machines and the expansion of the national Air Desk, which manages and co-ordinates the 24-hour seven-day service.
Data released today by Health Minister Andrew Little shows the investment is benefiting patients.
“In April this year, 89 per cent of emergency air ambulance helicopter missions took off within 10 minutes of being called to respond to a serious incident during the day,” Andrew Little said.
“This is a big improvement on where we were when the modernisation programme started two-and-a-half years ago, when just 60 per cent of flights took off within 10 minutes.”
The average take-off time is now seven minutes. Andrew Little said the quicker response times reflected a raft of improvements, including a more centrally coordinated system, better helicopters, improved clinical crewing and national monitoring of performance.
“Patients around the country are benefiting from the changes we’ve been making to New Zealand’s air ambulance system,” Andrew Little said.
“Providing a faster and more comprehensive service, with two paramedics on board the helicopters and the ability to treat patients during flights, is particularly helping people in rural areas, where long distances mean getting urgent treatment quickly is critical.
“Better national coordination of our health system is at the heart of the health reforms I announced last month, and the improvements we’re seeing in the air ambulance service show why it’s the right thing to do.”
The Government is further boosting the air ambulance service, announcing in last week’s Budget it will increase the service’s funding by 10.8 per cent, with an extra $17.3 million of funding over four years.
It is also increasing funding for the road ambulance service by 8.1 per cent, with $83 million in extra funding over four years, made up of $51.6 million from Vote Health and $31.4 million from Vote Labour Market (ACC).
“Emergency Road Ambulance Services respond to more than half a million incidents every year and are a key part of the New Zealand health system,” Andrew Little said.
“The $83 million provided through Budget 2021 will ensure emergency road ambulance services and communications centres can be maintained at existing capacity and performance levels.”