Helicopter rescue service turns 21 | Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand | Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty

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Helicopter rescue service turns 21

16 August 2021

The TECT Rescue Helicopter service has touched the lives of more than a thousand patients and countless family members in its 21 years of operation.

Helicopter rescue service turns 21
TECT Rescue Helicopter flight team

For BOPDHB Medical Leader and Clinical Director ICU/HDU Troy Browne, being involved with the TECT Rescue Helicopter service is a "pleasure". Troy has worked closely with the service as their Medical Director for nearly 20 years and credits the survival of the service on the team.

"It's a high risk and high stress environment and people's passion and drive is what makes it work so well," explains Troy. "We have a high-performance team who make it work. A highlight of my involvement with the service has been watching the growth over the years."

The service was originally housed in a fenced compound at the back of the St John's Ambulance station and operated a single-engined Squirrel AS 32 helicopter. Pilot/Base Manager Liam Brettkelly and two BOPDHB flight trained nurses were doing about one transfer per month.

Now the service operates from the purpose-built Iain Paine Memorial Hangar on the Tauranga Hospital site which was built following a generous donation from the Paine family, in memory of their son who was killed in a farm accident 25 years ago. Prime Minister Helen Clarke officially opened the Iain Paine Memorial Hangar in October 2007. A twin-engined BK117 helicopter is now used and a fully-fledged air emergency medical service employing nine full-time crew consisting of Intensive Care Paramedics (ICP), Crewman and Pilots, operates from the hangar.

Liam has worked for the service since its inception and is proud of the fact the crew offer a diverse range of attributes and experiences to the operation.

"Each member of the team brings a specialist skillset, enhancing the safety and efficiency of rescue missions. Many people have been involved in this journey," he said.

Several different agencies use the TECT Helicopter Service including St John's for trauma and medical emergencies, BOPDHB for inter-hospital transfers, Police, Surf Lifesaving and Land Search and Rescue.

Liam said they are called out to at least one job a day this time of year and twice a day during the summer months. There is a 10 minute response time during the day and 20 minutes at night.

"We are saving lives by getting the specific care to the patients in a timely fashion and by being able to get the patients to a place of increased skill," he explains.

"Last summer a woman collapsed while she was running on her farm with her husband. She was intubated by the attending ICP and we flew her to Waikato Hospital. On arrival the doctors said they didn't hold much hope for her. I found out several weeks later that she was recovering at home with her family. The fact we could get a paramedic in so quickly saved her life."

The TECT Rescue Helicopter services the Coastal Bay of Plenty region providing a 24-hour emergency service, 365 days a year.