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New flying doctor service for Nelson

Whakatū The New Zealand flying doctor service is set to open a dedicated air ambulance in Nelson (Whakatū) this month.

The flying doctor service (NZFDS) is run by GCH Aviation from its Christchurch and Nelson bases and operates 24/7, flying missions across the country providing critical care transfers of patients between hospitals.

There is space for two aircraft in the Nelson airport hangar and the patient experience will be more like GCH Aviation’s state-of-the-art facility in Christchurch.

It will allow the NZFDS to continue to grow the partnership with Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Flight nurses will have a dedicated space to plan their missions and the extra room allows a much better level of support for patients and keeps them out of the weather.

There will also soon be a patient and whānau waiting room, with shower and bathroom facilities.

A blessing of the new facility will take place on November 17 led by the district health board.

The NZFDS crew is made up of a qualified group of pilots and nurses.  Nelson’s seven flight nurses are intensive care unit staff from Nelson Hospital.

They complete up to 70 missions a month, regularly moving patients around the South Island and across Cook Strait.

Travers Tennant is the NZFDS lead pilot, and one of four pilots based in Nelson, who are rostered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He says they sometimes transport four to five patients a day.  In the 12 months to September 2021, the Nelson flying doctor service crew completed 691 missions, some involving multiple stops.

They mostly fly between Blenheim, Wellington and Christchurch, but it is not uncommon for us to go as far as Invercargill, providing critical-care patient transfers between hospitals.

As a flying intensive care unit with highly-trained medical staff and specialist equipment, patients receive a seamless level of care from bed to bed and they are in the safest of hands.

They day and night transfers include critical care burn victims, spinal injury patients, neonatal transfers, stroke and cardiac patients, trauma victims, surgery patients and delivery of blood or equipment supplies.

GCH Aviation is a family-owned business headquartered in Christchurch at a purpose-built aviation base at Christchurch Airport, with other bases in Nelson, Kaikoura, Wellington, Greymouth, Vanuatu and Fiji.

The company owns more than 30 aircraft and employs more than 120 staff across its helicopter and fixed wing aircraft services which includes certified flight training, air rescue and air ambulance operations.

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