Rescue helicopter wait time ‘unacceptable’

Mike King waited an hour for a rescue helicopter. Image: Mike King/Facebook.

Mike King spent an hour lying on the road thinking he would die waiting for a rescue helicopter after a motorcycle accident.

The comedian and mental health advocate came off his bike just north of Paeroa after hitting an oil patch earlier this month.

Mike snapped his scapula, broke a collar bone and nine ribs and also punctured a lung.

He says he spent an hour waiting, unable to breathe, thinking he was going to die in a post on his Facebook page.

Mike was taken to Waikato Hospital by helicopter where he underwent surgery and stayed for 11 days.

Mike recovering in hospital. Image: Mike King/Facebook.

Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust chairman, Brian Bowering says, a one hour wait for a rescue helicopter is unacceptable.

There is another report of someone unconscious waiting over an hour and 20 minutes for an ambulance Brian says.

“If you've got to wait 25 minutes for a helicopter, that’s about as long as you need to wait from anywhere really, to wait an hour is totally unacceptable.”

He is currently fighting to restore a rescue helicopter being based in Whitianga over summer after the Ministry of Health removed it as part of a 10 year modernisation programme.

Brian says if a helicopter is in Whitianga and available immediately it would reach Paeroa in 15 minutes.

He says seeing Paeroa is in the Waikato District Health Board area they would normally get a helicopter from Hamilton but it could be serviced from anywhere it just depends on work load.

“It depends on what other helicopters in Waikato, Hamilton and Auckland are doing.

“Paeroa could be serviced from Taupo if all the others are busy, there’s no hard and fast line there.”

Brian says despite the wait time he doesn’t think the area needs more helicopters.

“There doesn't need to be more helicopters, they just need to be strategically placed better.”

A Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Image: Daniel Hines/SunLive.

Having a helicopter based in Whitianga makes sense especially seeing there is a $1 million purpose built facility for it, he says.

“We can get to anywhere on the [Coromandel] Peninsula quicker than anybody else can and because the crew is sitting here waiting for a call, they don't have to be paged to come in, they’re off the ground in minutes and gone.”

The community raised $1 million for the rescue helicopter facility with a house for four crew members that was completed in 2012.

In previous years a helicopter has been based in Whitianga full time from Boxing Day to mid-February.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson says the air ambulance modernisation programme aims to provide a better on-board clinical service for the whole country.

“Through the modernisation programme, Whitianga and the wider peninsula now have access to new air ambulances, AW169s.

“These larger helicopters now provide space for clinical staff to deliver intensive clinical care on board, to ensure patients needing urgent treatment get the right care at the right time.”

Brian says even though they have access to the new helicopters, there still needs to be one based in Whitianga full time especially over summer.

“They're saying that we are better covered now but we are definitely not better catered for.”

A petition to reinstate the helicopter is gaining support, the aim is to reach 30,000 signatures before the petition closes on April 30.

The petition can be viewed here.

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Don't go off half-cocked, please.

Posted on 01-02-2020 18:31 | By

The Waikato-based rescue helicopter is consistently off the ground in less than 10 minutes from receiving the call, and the flying time is approximately 18 minutes; it was probably faster than if the helicopter had launched from Whitianga. You’re barking up the wrong tree on this one.


Posted on 22-01-2020 08:28 | By

Sums it up really well. Having been on the receiving end of the helicopter I can tell you categorically this is an absolute ridiculous and ludicrous decision. Why not take away Rural Fire Services as well. Surely FENZ can adequately cover their job, why not do away small town Police Stations, surely city Police Stations can cover those areas . . . To you who make the boo hoo comments just wait until you or your family need it. Watch your head come out of the sand then.


Posted on 21-01-2020 14:33 | By morepork

… the community already raised $1 million for a helicopter facility, why is there no helicopter in it? Can everybody now have their money back in light of the "modernization" program? This is ridiculous and a breach of trust with the people who worked hard to raise the money. It’s no wonder people hesitate to donate to worthy causes when they see this kind of nonsense. You shouldn’t be raising money if you don’t REALLY intend to use the end product.

boo hoo

Posted on 21-01-2020 11:10 | By CC8

Everybody thinks they are going to die when they are waiting for an ambulance, and everybody hit gravel or oil when they fell off their bike, mostly it is just that they are not that good at riding.... Just be thankful that the rescue helicopter even exists , and accept that the people managing them are doing the best they can with what they have. If you want more find a way to find the extra money .


Posted on 21-01-2020 10:12 | By Nick220

Sounds fine to me, its a free service with no legal requirement to send a helicopter over an ambulance. I think Brian is just annoyed that he has a helicopter trust with no helicopters....