Helipad proving its worth

Helipad proving its worth

The value of Christchurch Hospital’s state of the art rooftop helipad was highlighted once more recently when a patient went into cardiac arrest as the rescue helicopter was coming in to land.

“We were able to get the patient downstairs and straight into resus in less than five minutes,” says Garden City Aviation Flight Crew Manager Rick Knight.

“That’s a huge difference from where we were before the helipad, landing at Hagley Park, and it taking an average of 13 minutes to get to the hospital by road ambulance.”

Reducing the timeframe for getting critical patients to definitive care whether it is due to trauma or a medical event makes a huge difference in their outcome.

“I have been involved in helicopter rescue for 20-plus years, you just can’t compare the two sites (helipad and Hagley Park landing pad). We waited for this for so long and it’s working really well, not to mention the fact that the view from the top is beautiful,” Rick says.

The inaugural helipad landing happened on 1 September 2020 and the helipad (the most advanced in New Zealand) has been fully operational since November 2020. The Māia Health Foundation began fundraising for it in early 2018 and raised over $500,000 in six months. This was then dollar matched by the Rātā Foundation.

Māias efforts continued with a further $1,000,000 raised through community fundraising, events, and significant grants from organisations the Canterbury Orthopaedic Services, Mackenzie Charitable Foundation and Advance Ashburton. Individuals and families also made generous donations.

Patient privacy and dignity landing on the hospital roof is another very important aspect of the helipad, Rick says.

“Previously we’d be unloading patients in front of children playing netball and cricket on Hagley Park which wasn’t very appropriate. There is also now the aspect of security for the helicopter landing on the helipad compared to when we used to land in the park.

“Particularly at night we used to have to be really vigilant making sure no one was approaching the helicopter when we were unloading patients.”

Being able to have two helicopters on the helipad at the same time is also a huge advantage, as is having the orderlies upstairs at the helipad waiting for the helicopter and helping transport patients and equipment to the Emergency Department.

The new helipad is a total game-changer not only for the Canterbury region but to every patient who is now flown in from around the country, he says.

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