Contributed - Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Media

New emergency helicopter service to launch in new year

UPDATE: More doctors, nurses and a region-first, 24-hour emergency helicopter service will mark a historic change to health-care on the NSW North-Coast, Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced on Wednesday.

In a rare chapter of the O'Farrell Government's sweeping reforms, the North Coast is set to benefit from an overhaul of the state's aero-medical services which will see $2.2 million injected into a super base at Lismore.

From there, rotating teams will work around the clock to ensure a doctor is available on every flight.

Two new doctors and five paramedics will also be posted to the base.While the announcement will be of great benefit to patients requiring care, the streamlining of services into two major "super regions" will see community-based providers battling it out for one government contract.

The winner will direct all North Coast fleets from the bases at Lismore, Tamworth and Newcastle.

After hearing the news, Kris Beavis, Westpac Surf Life Saving helicopter's Northern chief, said he felt like a "grenade" had been thrown at the service which, thanks to local funding, had provided "best of class care" to the region for more than 30 years.

He said it was insulting the State Government was suggesting the best services were not already being provided and questioned why decisions about the North Coast had been made by bureaucrats in the city.

Ms Skinner denied community-based services would be shut out and said that for first time ever helicopter operators would be able to tender on a level playing field for the Northern contract.

Tenders will go out in December.

The Lismore base is expected to be operational from July next year. 


EARLIER: Northern NSW will have a new 24-hour emergency helicopter service from next year, Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced today.

Based at Lismore, the aero-medical centre will be staffed around the clock and will allow patients in surrounding areas to be moved to hospitals up to 30 minutes faster than current transfer rates.

Ms Skinner said that for the first time, at least one doctor and nurse will be sent on every flight to help paramedics provide patients with the best care possible between hospitals.

Two new doctors and five new paramedics will be assigned to the Lismore base.

The State Government also promised an additional $2.2million in funding for helicopter retrieval services from the Lismore base by July, 2014.

The announcement was made in response to an independent review into the state's aero-medical services.

Lismore will make up part of a single "Super Region" planned for Northern NSW, which will also include bases at Tamworth and Newcastle.

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