Rescue chopper services merge

THE region’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has a new partner, after a merger with its northern NSW counterpart in Lismore.

Part of an organisational restructure, the merger between the Hunter and New England North West service and the Lismore-based Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service is aimed at securing an estimated $250 million government tender for health retrieval services in the state.

It comes after the NSW government announced earlier this year it would award only two contracts for NSW, one for Sydney and the southern regions and one for the northern regions.

Both services said their community-based structures made the one-tender bid possible and their communities would see no noticeable change in the operation, with funds raised in the particular areas staying in that area.

The general manager in charge of the Tamworth and Newcastle helicopter bases, Richard Jones, said the merger came into effect yesterday, with engineering and safety protocols being updated to reflect the new union.

Mr Jones said the tender documents were due to be released before Christmas, with tenders closing in March.

It was then expected to take about six months to assess the tenders, with the winning bid announced by next December and the new contract coming into effect on January 1, 2015.

Mr Jones said they were well prepared when it came to the tender submission, with the state government already showing its confidence in the service by announcing the location of doctors and paramedics at the bases from 2015.

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