Parliament to debate petition for winching

THE petition to reinstate the winching operations of the Tamworth Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service will be debated on the floor of state Parliament early next month.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson lodged the petition on November 21 last year, six days after Deputy Mayor Russell Webb presented him with the document, which comprised more than 10,000 signatures.

It is the last-ditch attempt to reverse the controversial decision, which was made last July as part of sweeping reforms to aero-medical services and included the announcement of a 24-hour rescue service.

Winching was, however, retained in Lismore, Newcastle and Wollongong.

While he has a “fair idea” what Health Minister Jillian Skinner will have to say when the petition is tabled to Parliament on March 6, Mr Anderson vowed to continue the fight.

“The decision came from NSW Ambulance; their advice to the minister was that winching should cease. It would be a very risky move to overturn that decision for political reasons,” Mr Anderson said.

“We have tried many angles, lots of different sides talk about upping training components ... but they have consistently come back and said ‘no’.

“I would not want to compromise the safely aspect of any operation; that is not my role.

“My role is to put forward and fight for what the community believes in and the community believes (winching capabilities) should be retained.”

Cr Webb maintains there are flaws in the argument for withdrawing winching operations and economically it could not be justified.

Paramedics in the Tamworth region had not undertaken enough winching operations in the previous 12 months to satisfy the skill level and to mitigate risks associated with the life-saving task, Ms Skinner told Mr Anderson last October.

She said the decision may be reviewed if demand for the service changed in the future.

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