Winching critical component of rescue service

THE people's helicopter may be compromised without any consultation.

I say the people's helicopter because the service is directly responsible for the contribution of about $1.7 million per year over the past 13 years, which has established the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service from its infancy to the now new complex at the Tamworth Airport, with two state-of-the-art aircraft and equipment including winching capabilities.

What is the real reason behind the NSW government commissioned Ernst and Young's independent review, which includes ceasing winching operations as part of the Tamworth and Wollongong services?

This is a critical component of the overall rescue procedures.

The possibility of ceasing the capabilities of the two helicopters, which have winching apparatus already installed with highly skilled and accredited operators, is totally beyond logical comprehension.

Why would any organisation recommend jeopardising the rescue of any person by prolonging the rescue time, by calling in an alternative craft from another area?

This leaves the authorities open to extreme criticism, should there be a fatality as a direct result of this poorly thought-out alternative.

In 2007 the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service received an Australian Maritime Award for its involvement which included winching rescue operations of the crew of the Pasha Bulker boat disaster at Nobbys Beach at Newcastle.

There is no doubt the majority of the review seems to be favourable to the overall operations, as welcomed by the general manager of the rescue service, Richard Jones.

But the recommendation about winching is just wrong and needs axing, to keep these helicopters doing what they do best rescuing people in emergency situations and using all options available to them.

Being a part of that charitable/fundraising army, I expect and demand that the answer to the winching recommendation be "no".

I demand that the very best rescue options are available to help save my life.

Surely the community has earned that right, for its unwavering support over many years? This issue should be non-negotiable.

Some interesting statistics can be obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There are five million vehicles registered in NSW, all of which are covered by a compulsory third party personal injury insurance policy, of which there is a Medical Care and Injury Service (MCIS) levy, which is supposed to be divided up between all of the relevant stakeholders (including the ambulance service, which oversees the aeromedical services).

The average MCIS levy for a slip worth $320 is about $80.

Let's assume there is financial assistance for one million of these vehicles, which still leaves four million multiplied by $80, which equals $320 million.

So the reason can't possibly be a financial one.

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