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Celebration as rooftop helipad lands at country's largest tertiary hospital

Māia Health Foundation supporters have gathered to celebrate one of Canterbury’s most intense and successful public fundraising campaigns, and the landing of a future-proofed helipad at Christchurch Hospital.

$2 million has been raised by the Māia Health Foundation to build an upgraded helipad at the new Christchurch Hospital Hagley, which is home to the country’s busiest trauma centre. Construction of the rooftop helipad is now complete and ready to become operational as soon as the new hospital opens.

“We wanted to take the helipad from good to great.  It was a bold goal but together, with our community, we’ve done it.  Tonight we are recognising this incredible achievement,” says Māia Health Foundation Chief Executive Michael Flatman.

Initial plans for the Christchurch Hospital redevelopment included a single rooftop helipad.  This design only catered to a limited-sized aircraft and would have forced larger, long-range aircraft to continue landing in Hagley Park.

Māia launched its audacious fundraising goal in early 2018 with its 13-minute campaign which saw just over $500,000 raised in six weeks, which was then dollar matched by the Rātā Foundation, up to $500,000.  13 minutes is the average time it takes to transfer a patient from the existing helipad in Hagley Park to Christchurch Hospital.

With just over $1 million in the bank the Māia fundraising drive continued, with a further $1 million raised through community fundraising, events and significant grants from organisations such as the Canterbury Orthopaedic Services, Mackenzie Charitable Foundation and Advance Ashburton.  Individuals and families also made generous donations.

“It’s been an incredible journey and while we had donations from all over New Zealand and overseas, the Canterbury community really got behind what we were trying to achieve, with more than 71% of all donations coming from Canterbury,” says Michael.

Thanks to the Māia funding the future-proofed helipad is 30% bigger than initially planned, meaning two helicopters can access the helipad at the same time, enabling long-range aircraft to land and extending coverage across most of the South Island.  Upgraded helipad systems will ensure it’s configured to cope with adverse weather conditions. 

One of the most significant improvements is the building of a clinical support unit on top of the helipad to enable specialist treatment immediately upon touchdown.  It is the only helipad in New Zealand to have such a unit.

Clinical Leader of the Canterbury Air Retrieval Service Dr David Bowie has been advocating for a rooftop helipad for more than 20 years.  It’s landed just prior to his retirement in January 2020.

“I’ve spent a large part of my career in intensive care medicine and I have seen first-hand the difference 13 minutes could make.  Having such an advanced and future-proofed helipad at Christchurch Hospital is a dream that I’m so delighted I’ve seen come true.  There’s no doubt it will result in not only a drastically improved patient experience, but also improved patient outcomes,” says Dr Bowie.

The completion of the rooftop helipad comes just months after two new, $15-million rescue helicopters were launched in the South Island.  It is the first time the Airbus H145 twin-engine helicopters have been used in New Zealand for emergency medicine purposes.

The helicopters were purchased by GCH Aviation and Helicopters Otago.  They are utilised by Helicopter Emergency Medical Services New Zealand Limited (HEMS), which runs air rescue services across the South Island.

“The new helicopters, along with the advanced new helipad at Christchurch Hospital Hagley, sets a new benchmark for New Zealand’s air ambulance services.  We’re here to save lives, and having such state-of-the-art resources is going to help us do that,” says HEMS Chief Executive Ken Franklin.

There are expected to be about 800 landings each year at the Christchurch Hospital Hagley helipad.

“We know it’s going to be busy up there, and this future-proofed helipad means we have the facilities to keep up with this growth.  The helipad project was a no-brainer for Māia.  It perfectly fits with our mission to take our health system from good to great and helps ensure our communities get the right care, at the right time,” says Michael Flatman.

For more information please contact:

Anna Galvan

Ph: 021 499 353
anna.galvan@maiahealth.org.nz

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