Te Whatu Ora – Te Tai Tokerau busts myths on Northland Rescue Helicopter and Whangarei Hospital

The Westpac Auckland Rescue Helicopter uses the Whangārei Hospital helipad on July 19.

Rumours that rescue helicopters no longer land at Whangārei Hospital or patients are unable to be transported from the roof because of broken lifts are being addressed.

Several Advocate readers have contacted the outlet concerned that the hospital’s helipad is no longer in action and that Hato Hone St John has built a special-purpose vehicle to ferry patients from the Northland Rescue Helicopter base in Kensington to Whangārei Hospital in Maunu.

Others are worried that constantly failing lifts mean incoming flights to Whangārei Hospital have to land at Kensington and then transfer the patient to a waiting ambulance to be transported to hospital.

Te Whatu Ora – Te Tai Tokerau director of infrastructure and commercial services Jacqueline Bell said the helipad on the roof of Whangārei Hospital continues to be used by rescue choppers transporting patients.


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She even provided photo evidence of the Northland Rescue and Westpac Rescue helicopters using the helipad during the week starting July 17.

The Northland Rescue Helicopter uses the helipad at Whangārei Hospital on July 19.
The Northland Rescue Helicopter uses the helipad at Whangārei Hospital on July 19.

The lift connecting the helipad to the other nine hospital floors, Bell said, was “infrequently” out.

“The helipad was replaced in 2011, is in relatively new condition and has an expected life span of around 30 years.”

Bell said twice in the current calendar year – as of July 9 – the lift was out of operation for a short period.


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“On both occasions, the outage was caused by the lift doors being hit by a heavy object, such as a bed or trolley.”

The hospital has seven other lifts, which do not reach the roof.

Bell confirmed that when the helipad lift is out of service, patients are transferred from the rescue chopper base at Kensington Park to an ambulance and taken to Whangārei Hospital, and the same for outgoing flights but in reverse.

But that is not in a special purpose-built Hato Hone St John vehicle, a spokeswoman for the organisation confirmed.

Hato Hone St John’s operations team in Northland believed readers were referring to a service provided by New Zealand Air Ambulance (NZAA) – a private operator contracted by Te Whatu Ora to do transfers between the airport in Onerahi and Whangarei hospital.

The spokeswoman said Northern Rescue Helicopter Limited also has its own unmarked vehicle used to transfer patients on the same journey as NZAA.

“These services are independent from Hato Hone St John.”

Bell said the transfer from helicopter to ambulance as well as travel time to the hospital from Kensington added around 10 minutes to the total journey.

“Patients are always stabilised before being transferred.”

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