24 hour helicopter campaign takes off

Lachlan Shire Council will give full support to the Mayor of Orange to achieve a 24-hour emergency helicopter service.By Dominic Geiger

The Mayor of the Lachlan Shire, Des Manwaring, has recently thrown his support behind the project to establish an Orange based 24 hour emergency helicopter retrieval service for central and western NSW.

Although an emergency retrieval helicopter currently exists in Orange, the service is only funded to operate during daylight hours.

This means if a person requires emergency transportation after 6pm the service is unable to respond.

Des said it was important to establish the service as a 24 hour operation because the hour of the day doesn’t determine people’s health.

“[Lachlan Shire Council] will be giving its full support to the Mayor of Orange and that council to achieve this project,” he said.

“I think it’s a matter of common sense and a matter of money that’s affecting this project.

“When you’re talking about how much money you put towards an emergency service I think [in this situation] it’s completely worth it.”

If established, the helicopter would service the majority of the central west including the Lachlan Shire.

Following the Mayor announcing his commitment to the project at last Wednesday’s council meeting, council moved a motion to create a petition in support of the project which will be made available for Lachlan Shire residents to sign.

Des will also join a delegation to the NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, which will seek an immediate commitment to extend the retrieval service to 24 hours.

The campaign to establish the emergency helicopter follows the last month’s NSW Ambulance Service’s decision not to consider the 24 hour service until 2012.

NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, said the Auditor-General’s report in September 2010 stated that NSW Ambulance had reviewed the need to extend the operating hours of the Orange helicopter during 2009.

“That review identified there was not a sufficient demand at that time to warrant an increase to a 24 hour service,” she said.

“Prior to the election, I said I would again review the need for a move to a 24hr aero medical retrieval service in Orange.

“This has been done.

“The advice I have received shows there has been no change in aeromedical activity in the Central West, which is why there is no need to commit to a 24/7 operation at this stage.

“In line with the Auditor-General’s report, a state-wide review will be carried out before the regional helicopter contracts expire in December 2012.

“This will determine if there is a need to switch to an extended service in Orange.”

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