Westpac Rescue Helicopter in Tamworth records one of busiest months on record in October with emergency call-outs

Emergency mission: The Westpac Rescue Helicopter on scene of an accident in October. Photo: Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service
Emergency mission: The Westpac Rescue Helicopter on scene of an accident in October. Photo: Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service

The region’s rescue helicopter has recorded one of its busiest months on record, called to dozens of accidents and hospital transfers.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew has barely touched the ground with the October missions’ count soaring close to 40 call-outs.

During October, the rescue helicopter, based at Tamworth, had 37 call-outs including 19 accidents and almost as many transfers of patients to hospitals.

The missions included 12 trips to Newcastle where sick or injured patients were transported from across the New England North West to John Hunter Hospital for specialist treatment.

The crew – which boasts the helicopter pilots as well as a doctor and paramedic – were also called to pick up and drop off patients from as far as Tenterfield, Murrurundi, Tooraweenah, Dubbo, Lismore and Port Macquarie.

“The main thing is we’re being utilised as needed,” Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s community liaison officer Barry Walton told The Leader.

“October would be one of the busiest months we’ve ever had, and the months do fluctuate, but with the new contract, by having a doctor and paramedic on board, it opens up a wider support base.

“We have an intensive care unit going to every incident whether it’s an accident or transporting patients between hospitals.”

The Hunter-based Westpac chopper recorded 30 call outs for October including eight missions to Tamworth, Glen Innes, Moree and Armidale to collect the injured.

In October, the New England chopper recorded 12 days with double missions. And on October 24, the crew had three call-outs: one from Inverell to Newcastle, then a transfer of a patient from Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie before an elderly woman was flown from Narrabri to Tamworth hospital.

The log of missions means the new helicopter – which has a top speed of 165 knots per hour – can get to places quicker before the next emergency call-out.

“The increased capacity of the aircraft, its endurance, speed and the size gives the patient a lot more recovery and car to get them to hospital quicker,” Mr Walton said.

“But we do have cycles of missions, they do fluctuate and sometimes we have busy weekends and then quieter times.

“We know that we have seen an increase in missions to that Oxley Highway area between Walcha and Wauchope with motorbike accidents.

“We have cycles of quad bike accidents, cycles of motorcycle crashes, and cycles of horse accidents.”