Flying doctors' plane on wish list

23:51, Apr 15 2014
Taranaki Air Ambulance
AIMING HIGH: Taranaki Air Ambulance Trust administrator Jo Parr, Pilatus New Zealand chief executive Stephen Davies Howard and trust chairman Bruce Findlay show off the Royal Flying Doctor plane

Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service touched down in New Plymouth yesterday for a rescue mission of a different kind.

The crew of the sleek Swiss-made Pilatus PC 12 flew in to the city's airport to open its doors to the Taranaki Air Ambulance Trust and its flight nurses to see first-hand what is on the wish-list for the region's increasingly busy patient transfer service.

The region's air ambulance trust is currently working closely with the flying doctor service to buy the fully kitted out plane on offer for about $2 million, trust chairman Bruce Findlay said.

New planes cost more than $5m.

"We are able to access that because these planes are being replaced by the flying doctor service and we are able to pick one up - and get the benefit of the technology," Findlay said.

"Our relationship is in the true Anzac spirit," he said.

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The need to upgrade the trust's aging 1979 Piper Navajo for patient transfers out of Taranaki has become more pressing as patient transfers increase.

In the last financial year the trust carried out 279 missions carrying 399 patients to other hospitals.

In the last two years the hours flown increased on average by 9 per cent.

The trust was working hard to fundraise for the new plane through public donations and sponsorship, Mr Findlay said.

In New Zealand the Government did not pay for capital costs for the service, expecting the community to pay for the services it wanted.

Pilatus Australia chief executive Sebastian Lip, who flew over in the plane yesterday, said unlike New Zealand, the Australian Government paid 75 per cent of the capital costs of its air ambulance services.

The government had found it was more cost effective to pay for co-ordinated services rather than for the disjointed services such as operated in New Zealand, Lip said.

The Pilatus aircraft is fitted with two patient beds and allows room for flight nurses to move around and family to accompany the patient.

The pressurised cabin gives a stable environment for sensitive conditions such as head and heart complaints.

Taranaki Daily News