Flights to transport medical personnel between Whangārei and Kaitaia took off again last week after a two-month Covid-19 hiatus.
The Northland District Health Board (NDHB) medical commuter flights scheme is one of only two in New Zealand – the other in the Southern District Health Board at the bottom of the South Island.
The first two flights left Whangārei on Monday, May 25, with six more flights scheduled during the week to take health specialists north.
Up to 10 people commute daily from Whangārei to work at the district health board's Kaitaia Hospital.
The flights take health experts work in specialist clinics and surgery theatres covering orthopaedics, general surgery, ear nose and throat, gynaecology, renal, dietetics, paediatrics, dentistry and urology.
NDHB dental patients from Whangārei are also flown north for dentistry work.
The board's work of this type is done out of Kaitaia Hospital as part of managing its regional theatre availability and use.
Management and teams delivering training also commute as space allows. About 20 experts fly backwards and forwards monthly, leaving Whangārei at 8am and departing Kaitaia at 4pm.
One or two five-seater planes fly up to five days a week, depending on demand - with Tauranga-based Sunair Aviation from its Whangārei terminal. There are about 100 passenger trips a month.
Thirty minutes flying time each way replaces a four-hour 300 kilometre round trip by road. The reduced travel time means more time's available for specialists' working time.
Flights leave from Whangārei Airport, landing at Kaitaia Airport.
The NDHB flights have been running for more than 20 years.