Air Retrieval Service


The Christchurch Air Retrieval Service (CARS), coordinates and provides inter-hospital transfer of patients by Air Ambulance to and from Christchurch and other centres throughout New Zealand.

Aero medical retrieval may be required for many reasons:

  • Planned Admission for Specialist Services
  • Urgent Transfer for a higher level of care
  • Emergency Transport
  • ICU Support
  • Relocating to areas with bed space
  • Returning / Relocating patients to home areas

The retrieval team may involve both a doctor and a nurse or a nurse only, with additional input from paediatric and obstetric services as required.  All transfers are overseen by the ICU Specialist on for the day at Christchurch Hospital.

The retrieval may take place in a pressurised fixed wing aircraft, helicopter or even by road.  The service operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Our retrieval service transports approximately 450 patients per year, of which 72% are urgent transfers.  Approximately 18% of transfers are ICU transfers, paediatric transfers account for 10% of the workload, and obstetric transfers 12%.

We do not transfer neonatal patients (infants under 5kg).  These babies are transferred by the neonatal team based at Christchurch Women's Hospital.

The office of the CARS is located within the Intensive Care Department.  The Garden City Helicopters building acts as a base for storage of some equipment, the CARS van, and as a rendezvous point for staff before heading to the aircraft hanger.


Page last reviewed: 05 December 2016