Critically-ill Children May Suffer If Airport Closes

If Kāpiti Airport closes, critically-ill children could be at risk because air ambulances can’t take them to safety.

That’s the message from Wellington Aeromedical Retrieval Service based in the Wellington Regional Hospital, says Kāpiti Mayor K Gurunathan.

The service says any closure of the Kāpiti Airport would have adverse impacts on emergency services flying patients, including critically ill children.

It would also affect organ donation deliveries from the Airport.

The Mayor says the warning ca me from the Aeromedical Service in a letter last week.

During the recent Wellington Airport runway closures Aeromedical used Kāpiti Airport on eight occasions. 

“If the new Airport owners, NZPropCo, were not fully aware of the critical services the Airport supports when they included the potential closure of the Airport as an option, I now put them on notice with the advice that community opposition is increasing,” says Mayor Gurunathan.

“This latest warning from Aeromedical issued in a letter appealing to the Mayor’s Office is bound to significantly increase this public opposition.”

The CCDHB letter was jointly sent  by Intensive Care Specialist Dr Alex Psirides and Associate Charge Nurse Manager Karyn Hathaway, based at the Wellington Intensive Care Unit. 

The appeal letter noted:

“We are writing in support of the long-term visibility of Kāpiti Coast Airport.

“Not only does it provide an alternative to Wellington Airport for our services, but also for national retrieval services based in Auckland.

“This includes Starship Air Ambulance service which retrieves critically-ill children from the greater Wellington region, as well as Organ Donation New Zealand and the national ECMO retrieval service based in  Auckland City Hospital.

“When Wellington Airport is closed for adverse weather  conditions, or for maintenance work, Kāpiti Airport becomes an essential lifeline to allow us to retrieve critically ill patients,” says the letter.

It adds that the viability of the Airport should not be considered solely on commercial considerations.

It requests that aeromedical services that reduce inequality of access to healthcare should also be included in any viability assessment.

“If Kāpiti Coast Airport were to close, this would impact upon aeromedical retrieval with potential adverse consequences for patients,” says the letter.

The Wellington Aeromedical Retrieval Service based in the Intensive Care Unit of Wellington Hospital provides 24/7 emergency retrieval capability for over one million New Zealanders in the upper south and lower north islands.

The two fixed-wing and one helicopter provided by Life Flight are based at Wellington Airport. Around 75% of its work is carried using fixed-wing aircraft.

Weather conditions, distance and the patients conditions can make helicopter transfer non-viable.

To mitigate these risks the planes are redirected to Kāpiti Airport which remains a local alternative for the essential service.

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