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by Claire Allison

Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue is on schedule to implement a new network linking hospitals in the Canterbury region this winter.

Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust chief executive officer Christine Price said the service would be implementing an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) network joining hospitals in the Canterbury region, which would enable the crew to fly in low cloud conditions and ultimately save more lives.

Ms Price said the IFR project was progressing well as the Kaikoura Medical Centre approach/departure and the Christchurch hospital approach/departure had been signed off and published.

“We are in the last stages of CAA approval for our operation, which should be very soon, however due to Covid-19 this will proceed once the lockdown has been lifted. Timaru Hospital and Twizel Medical Centre procedures have been all drawn up and we are progressing through the planning stages for Ashburton Hospital.

“It won’t be long until we can start operating between Christchurch Hospital-Kaikoura Medical Centre and Christchurch Hospital-Timaru airfield under IFR.”

The Canterbury Air Rescue Service clocked up 254.2 hours of flight time on 164 missions in the January-March quarter, an increase compared to the quarter in 2019 when the Canterbury crew attended 135 missions over the three-month summer period. The crew have seen an 18% increase in mission numbers compared to this time last year.

Mission statistics for the quarter were consistent with recent quarterly trends; the majority of missions are responding to accidents (45%).