St John Air Desk

Noreen Hegarty |

Air ambulance services centralised

A two-year long trial to centralise the co-ordination and dispatch of national air ambulance helicopter services will get underway today.

The trial, funded by the Ministry of Health and ACC to the tune of $591,000 a year, is the result of collaboration between St John, Wellington Free Ambulance and the Air Rescue Group.

The service is based in the Auckland Clinical Control Centre and takes the form of an Air Desk staffed by two Clinical Support Officers (CSOs) 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The CSOs are all paramedics trained to intensive care level and the six staff appointed to the role all have air sector experience,” says St John Director of Clinical Operations Norma Lane.

“That experience is important because we want to ensure that the most appropriate air ambulance services are dispatched at the most appropriate times in order to optimise clinical outcomes for patients in urgent need.”

The Air Desk will centralise the dispatch and coordination of all emergency air ambulance helicopter resources in the country. Air Desk staff will assess calls for service to help ensure the right types of helicopters are dispatched to the right situations, carrying the right medical crew based on evaluations of the locations and terrain they’re going to, weather conditions and patient requirements.

“At times the helicopter closest to an incident may not be the right one so the Air Desk staff will play a key role in determining which aircraft and available staff are best for the situation at hand,” Ms Lane says.

“They will work closely with land-based response teams and will be particularly valuable in situations where there are many medical trauma victims and where accessibility for land-based crew is difficult.” 

Ms Lane said the trial was significant and cited recent multiple trauma incidents like the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes - where the only access to and from the town was by air or sea - and the December 24 2016 bus crash near Wairoa, as situations where the Air Desk would have provided more efficient services to those in need.



Noreen Hegarty

St John Media & Public Relations Manager

T 09 526 0528 I X 8095 I M 027 809 2058


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