In what was the second busiest month of the year to date, the crew of Greymouth’s NZCC Rescue Helicopter responded to 25 EMS (Emergency Medical Service) callouts across the West Coast and beyond during August, clocking up almost 50 hours of flying time.
About 40% of the jobs were inter hospital transfers from Westport to Greymouth, however the Rescue Helicopter was also dispatched for a range of medical and trauma retrievals, including 6 callouts to Canterbury ski fields.
On 9th August, the NZCC Rescue Helicopter crew of Pilot, Trent Garnham, Crewman, Dave Helliwell, and Paramedic, Orla Fowden, was dispatched to Roundhill Ski Field near Lake Tekapo to uplift an injured snowboarder. The patient was flown to Christchurch Hospital for further care. As the crew was leaving Christchurch to return to their Greymouth base, the Rescue Helicopter was dispatched to transfer a stroke patient from Buller Hospital to Greymouth.
On a sunny afternoon in August, the crew of Pilot, Henry Deans, Crewman, Dave Helliwell and Intensive Care Paramedic, Hernan Holliday, was dispatched to Temple Basin Ski Area in Arthurs Pass. A snowboarder was located on the track up to the ski field, assessed and treated before being flown to Greymouth Hospital for further care.
The Rescue Helicopter crew received a call to attend a job at Mt Hutt Ski Field, in the Canterbury foothills, in late August. Pilot, Stu Gorrie, Duty Crewman, Tim Robins, and Flight Paramedic, David Provis, transported a young patient with a badly broken leg to Christchurch Hospital’s orthopedic department for urgent surgery. “The patient required urgent medical intervention, so it was a priority to get him to Christchurch Hospital for emergency care in order to minimize the long-term damage caused by his injury.” said Crewman, Tim Robins. “Immediately after handing over our patient at Christchurch Hospital, the team received a second ski field mission, this time to Temple Basin, where a woman had fallen, injuring her knee. She was successfully uplifted and taken to Grey Base Hospital for treatment.”
The crew was dispatched to Temple Basin a third time later in the month, and to Craigieburn Ski Field to uplift a patient who was injured in an avalanche while back country skiing. Both patients were taken to Grey Base Hospital for treatment.
Inter hospital patient transfers continue to make up a significant portion of the Rescue Helicopter’s workload each month. As hospital services become more centralised and local medical facilities come under pressure with lack of staffing and specialised services, the need to transfer patients to tertiary hospitals for treatment becomes ever greater. This is especially evident on the West Coast, with 10 patients suffering from medical issues including stroke, pneumonia and severe abdominal pain requiring transport from Buller Hospital to Greymouth Hospital for treatment.
The Rescue Helicopter crew also attended 6 medical emergencies, flying patients from Westport, Karamea and Haast to Greymouth Hospital, while another patient was flown from Murchison Medical Centre to Nelson Hospital with a suspected Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. In addition to patient transfers and medical retrievals, the Rescue Helicopter crew also responded to two motor vehicle accidents.
A total of 24 patients received assistance from the NZCC Rescue Helicopter crew throughout August.