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North Island helicopter rescues set to break records this year despite lockdowns

Rescues and medical transfers by helicopter in the upper North Island are expected to set a record this year despite Covid-19 lockdowns.

A file image of The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust's Westpac 1 and Westpac 2 rescue helicopters at Auckland City Hospital. Source: Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

With over 900 call outs before the summer season begins, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust is expecting to reach over 1,000 missions, making 2020 one of its busiest years.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust covers the areas of greater Auckland, Hauraki Gulf and the Coromandel regions but also attend events further north or south of these regions.

The most call outs on record for the rescue helicopter service was back in 2015 when they attended 1118 call outs.

November 21 saw one of the busiest Saturdays in the service’s history with 10 call outs. The last time there were double digit call outs in one day was back in December 28, 2018 when the service attended 11 call outs.

Spokesperson for Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust Lincoln Davies says the marked increase in call outs the service attends include medical transfers as well as emergency call outs.

He says their Intensive Care Paramedics and Pre-Hospital and Retrieval Medicine Doctors have also been developing a ground response with the service.

“The Rapid Response Vehicle is utilised by the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter medical crew to assist local road ambulance crews when critical intervention is required.

“With a PHRM Doctor present, procedures such as emergency ultrasound and blood transfusions can be carried out at the scene of an accident if required.

“This has seen a significant increase in recent RRV missions. In 2018 there were 61 RRV missions throughout the year and in 2019 that increased to 104 RRV missions.”

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust isn’t the only helicopter rescue service seeing a marked increase in the number of call outs this year. Northland Emergency Services Trust has attended 980 call outs to date and is on track to exceed 1,000 by the end of the year.

This is compared to 2018 when the service attended 999 call outs.

With the summer season, which is the busiest season for rescue services fast approaching, both Northland and Auckland region helicopter services are expecting their workload will only increase.

“Both ARHT and NEST combined will have well over 2,000 call outs this year,” says Davies.