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Missions on the increase for New Zealand Flying Doctor service

By Matthew Horncastle

The New Zealand Flying Doctor (NZFD) service flew 1,207 missions with over 2,000 flight hours in 2020, and this number is on the rise in 2021.

With four planes and bases in Christchurch and Nelson, the air ambulance upped its critical-care patient transfer services between hospitals across New Zealand by six percent last year. 

The trend is continuing this year, with 222 patients transferred in the first two months of 2021, and 349 flight hours logged from the two bases in January and February, a significant increase on 2020.

NZFD Trust Chief Executive Christine Prince says the need for patients to access specialists and a higher level of care has driven the increase, along with new patient-care pathways which result in better outcomes for patients.

“The service operates day and night transferring critical care burn victims, spinal injury patients, neonatal transfers, trauma victims, surgery transfers, organ delivery, blood or equipment supplies,” she says.

Dr Neil Davidson, clinical lead for the Canterbury Air Retrieval Service says it has been a busy start to the year, with the team flying all over New Zealand ensuring patients get the level of care they need.

“An excellent example of this is the acute spinal cord pathway, where patients are brought to the spinal hub at Burwood in Christchurch for specialist treatment,” he says.

As the demand for best-practice patient care continues, the New Zealand Flying Doctor Trust has this week welcomed Williams Corporation as a new principal sponsor.

“Having a major sponsor on board like the Williams Corporation will be invaluable in allowing us to continue to deliver this service to New Zealand, and we are grateful for their choice to support our partnership with GCH Aviation and the New Zealand Flying Doctor Trust,” Dr Davidson says.

Each year the Trust needs to raise $3 million, and it contributes $2,500 to every mission. The NZFDS could not provide critical care patient services between hospitals without generous support from donations from the community. 

“Ultimately, this service is about the patients. Many are very seriously ill and we have to be there to respond and the new sponsorship from Williams Corporation will make a huge difference,” Ms Prince says.

Matthew Horncastle, Managing Director of Williams Corporation says they are proud to be getting on board with the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service.

“To be able to support such a critical service to the New Zealand community is something really special. Every Williams Corporation homeowner, along with our staff can feel very proud to be contributing to saving lives every time they see the Williams Corporation sponsored New Zealand Flying Doctors plane.”

Managing Director, Blair Chappell says every New Zealander should have access to this crucial lifesaving service when they need it. “Williams Corporation is committed to building better communities. This partnership is just another way we are demonstrating that.

“We will be working closely with the New Zealand Flying Doctor service to provide them additional support to help maximise this partnership,” he says.

“The ultimate goal is to increase their exposure, because sadly most New Zealanders don’t know much about them, unless they are in an unfortunate situation that requires a flight in the Williams Corporation-sponsored New Zealand Flying Doctor plane. That opportunity really excites us, and we will be doing all we can to allow them to continue saving lives.”


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