Rescue helicopters on FSC not impacted by doctor funding

THE additional funding by the NSW Government for aero-medical doctors will not impact on the rescue helicopters servicing the Far South Coast.

The Westpac Life Saver 3 rescue helicopter based at Moruya is not classed as an ambulance helicopter and is funded separately by the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters (Southern Region) chief executive Stephen Leahy however said he has been advocating for a long time that it is more economical and in the best interests of rapid patient care for his helicopters to have a paramedic on board.

But he doesn’t hold out much hope.

“The government announcement is simply an increase in funding; there are no legislative changes,” he said.

“Because we fall under a different ministry and have a different function – search and rescue instead of medical – we don’t gain anything from the announcement.”

Also not impacted is the Snowy Hydro Southcare rescue helicopter service based in Canberra that serves the region.

A spokeswoman said the Southcare chopper already carried a doctor on board every flight.

The NSW Ambulance service helicopter that also services the Far South Coast out of Wollongong also carries a paramedic. 

The Land Newspaper meanwhile reported that the State's helicopter retrieval services are set for a major overhaul - and a significant budget boost - under reforms unveiled this week by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

The sweeping aeromedical overhaul is in response to an independent review, will see a budget increase of $39.1 million, in addition to the existing commitment of $151.2m.

Two new "super regions", which divide the State into a northern and southern region, will be created and the bases in Tamworth, Newcastle, Orange, Wollongong and Canberra will all now be open 24/7.

Eighteen new paramedics will be employed and for the first time doctors will be mandatory on every flight, which will mean 11.5 new full-time equivalent doctors will also be employed.

Ms Skinner said there would now be a single retrieval network co-ordination phone line and that the existing fleet of helicopters would be "streamlined".

WESTPAC RESCUE: The Westpac Life Saver 3 rescue chopper, pictured here conducting a rescue off Narooma beach, is not classed as a medical chopper.

WESTPAC RESCUE: The Westpac Life Saver 3 rescue chopper, pictured here conducting a rescue off Narooma beach, is not classed as a medical chopper.

SOUTHCARE RESCUE: The Snowy Hydro SouthCare chopper already carries a qualified doctor on all its missions.

SOUTHCARE RESCUE: The Snowy Hydro SouthCare chopper already carries a qualified doctor on all its missions.

AMBULANCE CHOPPER: The Ambulance NSW choppers servicing the Far South Coast out of Wollongong obviously already carry paramedics.

AMBULANCE CHOPPER: The Ambulance NSW choppers servicing the Far South Coast out of Wollongong obviously already carry paramedics.