Starship on call 24/7: Air Ambulance

The Starship Foundation contributes $1.5 million annually to help keep the Starship National Air Ambulance service flying 24/7, 365 days of the year. The Lindsay Foundation is a key supporter and has generously donated $500,000 annually since 2019.

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Flying Intensive Care Unit a critical lifeline for children across Aotearoa

Fourteen-year-old Mac, from Otago, was mountain biking with his friends when he fell off
and hit his head. He was in a critical condition and needed urgent, specialist medical care. That care was over 1400 kilometres away, so the Starship Air Ambulance flew to Dunedin to retrieve him and bring him to Starship.

“If Starship didn’t have a bed available for Mac and he couldn’t get there, we don’t know if Mac would still be here today” Maree Denniston, Mac’s mum

Starship’s National Air Ambulance service is Aotearoa New Zealand’s only flying paediatric intensive care unit. Ready to go at a moment’s notice, it flies on average every 45 hours to retrieve critically sick or injured children from around the country.

The Starship Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) flight team carried out 191 retrievals from June 2022 to July 2023, a 9% increase from the previous year. The team travelled over 140,000 kilometres from Kaitaia to Invercargill, bringing children from across Aotearoa New Zealand back to Starship for urgent medical care.

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Dr John Beca, Starship Clinical Director, Medical and Surgical explains why this is such a vital service;

“Accidents and illness can happen to our children anywhere in New Zealand. Starship has New Zealand’s only dedicated Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, and any child requiring anything more than short term intensive care comes to Starship. The Starship National Air Ambulance service ensures that any child, regardless of where they are, gets the care and treatment they need.”

There are four crew, a PICU flight nurse, PICU flight doctor, the pilot and a second pilot or load master, with a team on call 24/7, 365 days a year, ready to respond to an emergency.

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Flight Nurse Rowan Sims says you have to be able to adapt and think on your feet.

“There are many elements to consider, whether it's moving critically sick kids, supporting highly stressed families, working with unfamiliar teams and resources, or dealing with
bad weather and fatigue. It's a privilege to be a part of the difficult and often emotional times these kids and families are going through. It's the best job in the world”.

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Read the full Impact Report 2022-2023 here