That vital 13 minutes

Kate Murney showing Ashburton’s support for a fundraising appeal that will generate $1 million to build a roof-top heli-port for Christchurch Hospital.


Christchurch Hospital might be just a 25-minute helicopter ride away, but currently the transfer from helicopter to hospital is almost as long because landings are made in Hagley Park. A fundraising project for a roof-top heli-pad that will carve 13 minutes off that transfer is under way. Reporter Sue Newman talks to Kate Murney who experienced the park transfer and Michael Flatman, the man behind the fundraising appeal.


If you are critically ill, every minute counts when it comes to accessing care; for your family members every one of those minutes can seem like an eternity.

Ask Ashburton woman Kate Murney and her family how that feels and they can sum it up in just two words – sheer hell.

Step back in time to December 2013.

Kate had pneumonia.

She was taking prednisone and feeling reasonably well, but within a short time she became critically ill.

“I went to the doctor who put me in Ashburton Hospital and overnight everything started to go wrong and they thought I wouldn’t survive,” she said.

Michael Flatman

That meant an emergency transfer to Christchurch Hospital by helicopter.

Two of Kate and husband Hank’s children lived close to Christchurch and raced to the hospital, her husband, father and other daughter drove from Ashburton to Christchurch.

The flight to Hagley Park took 25 minutes, but the transfer to hospital seemed to take an eternity as Kate was moved from helicopter to ambulance and driven the short distance to the hospital’s ambulance bay.

She was told that trip took 13 minutes, but for her family waiting in the hospital it seemed like hours.

“When I finally got into hospital they said I was the sickest person on the ward.

“I was almost dying and that extra 13 minutes of waiting time for my family was excruciating, they went through so much angst.”

Kate floated in and out of consciousness, but the lasting memory of being wheeled into surgery is of her six foot two-tall adult son crying.

She was found to have septicaemia and her gall bladder was removed.

Her story has a happy ending, but Kate knows that like anyone who is critically ill, even minutes can make the difference between life and death.

And those 13 minutes that it takes to make an ambulance transfer from the central park heli-pad could be that difference.

Kate is joining with other air ambulance users in becoming the face of the Maia Health Foundation’s campaign to raise $1 million in six weeks to ensure a heli-pad is built on Christchurch Hospital’s roof.

“They say that first hour is crucial and at the moment we’re wasting 13 minutes of that time.

“I consider myself very, very fortunate, my story had a happy ending,” she said.

For Ashburton people it is critical the roof-top heli-pad is built, because any one of us could find ourselves needing those critical 13 minutes of lifesaving time in the future, Kate said.a